Signature Dish Finalist 2011

On day two of the North Coast Food tour with Lorraine from NQN I find myself at the Port Macqaurie TAFE.  We were inside a busy, bustling kitchen watching 12 Finalist chefs prepare their signature dish for judging.

Chefs in the Kitchen

The mid North Coast Signature Dish Competition is now in its forth year.  Through this competition chefs have the opportunity to showcase the very best of local produce in a dish which they feel represents their restaurants signature dish. The competition is a Mid North Coast Tourism initiative which aims to highlight the area as a leading food and wine destination. Through the prizes supplied by industry sponsors such as Rydges Hotels, Cassegrain wines, Focus Magazine and Joyer Consulting the winner of the competition is given the tools to further promote their restaurant.

Kien Nguyen from Rendezvous Coffs Harbour

Judging the winner of this prestigious competition is previous winner Glenn Thompson from Zest Restaurant in Port Stephens, David Baker of Port Macquarie TAFE and our very own, much adored Lorraine from NQN.  I have been asked to join the “people choice judging panel” so I also had the pleasure of tasting all the dishes you see before you.

Chefs in the Kitchen-2

So without further ado I will lead you through these mouthwatering dishes.  I can honestly say I enjoyed every mouthful, and being a judge naturally I tried each dish! (It’s a hard job but someone has to do it!)  Be sure and visit the restaurants shown below, and support our wonderful food & wine industry. I think there is only two restaurants on the list that I haven’t as yet eaten at, and I will be sure to rectify this situation shortly.

Lee O’Carroll

Bonville International Golf Resort

Coffs Harbour

Bonville International Golf Course Restaurant

Roasted Hastings Valley organic Chicken breast, boudin of chicken and basil, tomato consommé, sweet corn puree and baby carrots.


Clinton Hunter

Opal Cove

Coffs Harbour

Duck Assiette Opal Cove

Duck Assiette

Cured Duck Breast with Asian herb salad and macadamia Praline

Crisp duck confit with shitake mushroom

Five spice duck breast on braised wombok drizzled with spiced plum sauce


Todd Richardson

The Corner Restaurant

Port Macquarie

Assiette of Pork, The Corner

Assiettte of local Pork

Confit Cheek

Pork Belly & Trotter Sausage

Poached Fillet with winter vegetables and pumpkin puree


Luke Justin Cameron

Sandpiper Restaurant

Nelson Bay

Snapper Fillet, Sandpiper restaurant

Port Stephens Snapper Fillet w smoked prawn, basil & feta tortellini, roast cherry tomatoes and verjuice emulsion sauce


Robert English

AVE Restaurant


Assiette of Squid

Assiette of local squid

Sautéed local squid with saffron mussel

Local tomatoes & broad beans with local smoked port foam

Squid ink risotto w crispy squid tentacles tossed in orange paprika salt and local wild violets


Joe Fallon

The Rustic Table


The Rustic Table

Pan roasted local goat rump with banana skordalia, fresh rocket and blueberry tzatziki.

Kien Nguyen

Rendezvous CEX

Coffs Harbour

Gaian Duckling

Supreme of Gaian Duckling pocketed with lemon oil infused local king prawn on a chutney of garden fruits and lakeview fresh mushrooms with black truffle shavings and an Edition Noir 2008 Durif reduction. Sided by a timbale of green apple Jelly and crisp rice paper garnishing.


Chris Macleod

The Restaurant @ Cassegrain

Port Macquarie

Ballontine of Rabbit

Ballontine of locally farmed rabbit.

De-boned rabbit leg with herb vegetable and rabbit farse, prosciutto wrapped loin with celeriac puree and game jus.


Stefano Mazzina

Fiasco Ristorante & Bar

Coffs Harbour

Trio of Mullet, Fiasco

Trio of Red Mullet

Steamed red mullet on a bed of fennel and garlic puree, zucchini caponata and veal reduction.

Zucchini flower filled with red mullet mouse on a cherry salsa and manzanilla olives.

Red Mullet and lard tartare with quail egg and red mullet foam.


Joel McCulla

Zulu’s Restaurant & Bar

Coffs Harbour

Zulu Cricket and coconut Crumbed Prawn

Cricket & Coconut Crumbed Prawn Platter

Sweet succulent locally caught prawns coated in an Umani rich coating of ground roasted cricket and shredded coconut, served with an array of sauces and sides.  Sauces including Sik Sik, an African roasted capsicum sauce, Muamba, an African peanut sauce, a fresh salsa verde and a lemon foam. The dish is further garnished with a Berbere Chilli Paste from four different chillies so dinners can adjust the heat to their own taste.


Dustin Bowie Ford

Saltwater Restaurant & Bar

Emerald beach

Dustin Bowie Ford

Assiette of Dorrigo Valley Capretto, butternut pumpkin bread, butter pudding and jus fume


Scott Evans

Sundowner Tiona Tourist Park

Sundowner Tourist Park

Sizzling garlic salt and pepper squid with spring onions, coriander, baby potato, lemon verjuice served with oyster bomb.

Phew! That was a lot of delicious food! I was very pleased to find that all my favourite local restaurants were represented in the competition. Being from Coffs Harbour I tend to be a little biased toward my home area, we were very well represented with 8 of the 12 finalist coming from Coffs or the immediate surrounds.

David Bowie Ford

David Bowie Ford 2010 Signature Dish Winner

Last years winner David Bowie Ford of Saltwater Restaurant, Emerald Beach put up another delicious plate but he couldn’t hold on to the title. The judges found in favour of Robert English from AVE in Bellingen. Robert produced the Assiette of local squid, a meal which is currently on the menu at AVE should you wish to try the winning dish.

Robert English Ave Bellingen

Robert English 2011 Signature Dish winner with Glenn Thompson 2009 winner & judge

Voting for this prize was a lot less of a hushed affair. We were a table of twenty and we were each served delicious canape style versions of the original dishes. There was much oohing and aahing and quite a bit of discussion about each dish, and the talented chefs that had produced our banquet. Cassegrain wines were served to compliment the meal, and I am sure everyone appreciated the opportunity for a long and leisurely lunch. Now to the all important “Peoples Choice Award.”

Kien Nguyen from Rendezvous Coffs Harbour-2

Kien Nguyen of Rendezvous CEX Coffs Harbour won the peoples choice with his gorgeous ensemble of Supreme Gaian Duckling. Rendezvous is open for functions and group bookings.

Kien Nguyen from Rendezvous Coffs Harbour-3

I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of such an exciting local event. It is always great to have the opportunity to promote the wonderful tourism, food and wine we have available on our own doorstep. Congratulations to all who participated int he event.

Gourmet Getaways would like to thank Mid North Coast Tourism and Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella for the invitation to this event.