Ngāti Te Ata top chef inspires other young Māori to rise

By Jessica Tyson

Lyall Minhinnick is one of three of New Zealand's best young chefs who battled it out in the kitchen, for the chance to be crowned, Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s first young ambassador chef.

Minhinnick of Ngāti Te Ata entered to inspire Māori and Pasifika youth to dream big, push through barriers, and see past their circumstances.

The finalists were shortlisted to the top three out of 19. Despite not winning first place, Minhinncik says getting the chance to put his food on the plate and show it to the judges was “absolutely awesome”.

“I really loved cooking in the venue we were at, Homeland Peter Gordon. That was really massive. He was there on the day, so that was really cool cooking in front of him.”

Minhinnick says his father has been in prison for most of his upbringing but will be proud of him.

“I’m sure people can relate to the story of where I’ve come from and hopefully it does inspire them to get out and push past those barriers of things stopping them like having no father around or just being brought up in a rough community.”

Originally from Auckland, Minhinnick works as the head chef at an iconic rural restaurant, Fleurs Place in Moeraki, Otago, near Dunedin. The seafood restaurant is noted for, among other things, being top UK chef Rick Stein's favourite.

Minhinnick and his family ended up in Moeraki the night before a SIX60 concert they were heading to. After the concert he came back to Fleurs Place - and has never left.

Minhinnick says restaurant owner Fleur Sullivan has helped him learn more about Māori ingredients.

“She’s massively into her foraging and she’s taught me a lot of Māori ingredients and a lot of Māori food that we’ve used through her menu as well so I’m getting used to different varieties of Māori potatoes and garnishes we find walking to work.”

He says Māori food should be showcased more often.

“We Māori know what we like to eat and we have beautiful food, growing up learning how to produce hāngi and boil-ups and fried bread and just putting that into a menu. I believe it’s given me a massive opportunity.”

As part of the competition, Minhinnick cooked a lamb dish and a beef dish.

“For my lamb dish I did a lamb belly crackling and then I crusted it up into a yummy herb crust and then put it back into the lamb rack, served it with some smoked beetroot and cauliflower puree, made a jus," he says.

“I reckon I did myself proud on the plate.”