The name Snapafest may lead you to think a seafood festival is all about snapper but as the name stands for Seafood Nelson Arts and Performance Snapafest is going to be about much more than just delicious Nelson Seafood.
On Friday 16th September the Snapafest weekend will kick off with Snaparock featuring rock retro legends Mental As Anything, a Sydney supergroup that includes members of the Angels and AC/DC lead out by Mark Gable from the Choirboys & Angry Anderson as well as Kiwi band The NARCS.
Then on Saturday at Snapafeast there will be a day of fun at Founders Park where Nelson seafood will feature as the focus for the day, of course as with any festival there will be music, wine and beer too.
You can truly indulge yourself in seafood at Snapafeast, tickets are $40 for adults with food from four stalls that will be serving kiwi classic fish & chips, Ika Mata island style raw fish salad, green lip mussel in a cider and light cream sauce, classic seafood chowder and seafood crayfish marinara linguini, grilled fish/seafood bbq of prawns, fish filets and salmon skewers and the turbot slider designed by guest chef Brett McGregor included in the ticket price, you only need to buy your refreshments.
McGregor, NZ Master Chef winner in 2010, will be at the festival cooking Nelson seafood and judging The NZ King Salmon Snapamaster, a mystery box cooking competition that has attracted entries from a number of Nelson restaurants and cafes so I took the opportunity last week to talk with him about food, Nelson and what he is going to be doing here.
McGregor is a regular visitor to Nelson and loves this part of the world, he has been working with Nelson based Proper Crisps for about two years and his wife has family in the top of the South.
I asked him where he had his last meal in Nelson and he told me it was at the home of the owners of Proper Crisps who served him a crayfish gratin with a crushed Proper Crisps kumara crisp topping that he says “was really delicious”.
He says “Nelson has an abundance of wonderful seafood, is home to some outstanding producers like Proper Crisps, Pic’s Peanut Butter, a whole bunch of great cheese producers and many other quality products.
“Food is evolving all the time and I love looking at what is closest to me wherever I am, I’m always looking to use and grow ingredients from around the world.”
At Snapafeast he will be judging a cooking competition and presenting two 40 minute demonstrations during the day where he will be showing you how to prepare delicious, easy to make seafood starters like mussels with nam jim sauce, oysters with ginger ponzu and fish balls with a dipping sauce.
He says “the recipes are from my new book and are designed to take the fuss out of having friends around for dinner or just to watch the rugby, all easy to prepare with maximum flavour impact and can be a starter for a dinner or just something delicious to snack on with friends”.
Most importantly he is really excited to be coming to the festival because he gets to design the food to go with beautiful Nelson wines and beers, including a seafood slider that will be prepared by Blinc Catering and sold throughout the day.
“Pan-fried fish with preserved lemon mayo and watercress, just beautiful fresh ingredients and while it will look quite simple it’s a dish that’s packed with flavour.”
As happens when I talk with someone like McGregor our conversation meandered among several topics including his favourite restaurants in Nelson, what he thinks of the food scene here, what has happened since his Master Chef win and his books and television shows.
As we talked I got a sense of McGregor being someone who has discovered his place in life, his passion and excitement for what he does and for food is quite evident in his voice when he talks about it.
He lived in Hong Kong for three years where he worked as a teacher and this is reflected in his food, “food is about recreating memories and one of the best ways to develop memories is to travel so I do as much as I can and then work hard to recreate memories to share with others, sharing food that evokes memories is a really cool thing.
“While I have always loved cooking it was when living in Hong Kong that I fell in love with food and how in Asia a few ingredients are used to create something magical, something packed with delicious fresh flavours.”
He probably won’t mind me saying that while he makes an ok living from his books and television shows he certainly doesn’t make a fortune but he does what he does because he simply loves doing it.
In New Zealand you write a book “because you have something to say and you love that kind of life but you don’t make a lot of money” says McGregor “and it is very hard work, in the latest book for example we did all the photos in a week, that was 127 hours work in that week cooking food, taking photos, replenishing stocks and cooking food again.
“It was a really tough week and if we didn’t have the team we had it would have been impossible”.
McGregor’s latest book, ‘Chop Chop’ reflects something his father used to say to him, ‘chop chop, hurry up’ and is a combination of a whole lot of learning, is about what has happened over the last three years during which time he has met some amazing people and become even more motivated about his craft.
The book was born out of his Taste of the Traveller television show which was the name of first book that was turned into a television show, “sort of completing the circle if you like”.
The focus of the book is using fresh ingredients to make quick and simple dishes that are packed with flavour, “most kiwis are time starved these days, you get home from work and many people don’t want to then spend a lot of time cooking but wants flavoursome food quickly that recreates memories – that is what Chop Chop is.”
“The recipes are really simple and easy to follow, as well as being nutritious, but are also recipes that create amazing results whether you are cooking inside or outside using fire to cook with”.
So when he is judging at Snapafeast what is he going to be looking for?
“Firstly what does it look like, it must look like I really want to eat it then of course the quality of the ingredients and I want to see the main ingredient shine, that it is well cooked with great flavour and I love simplicity, food is about recreating memories and I want someone to recreate their food memory for me”.
McGregor will be on stage with his cooking demonstrations from 12.30pm and will be mixing and mingling with attendees while he is there, giving away free stuff as well as signing copies of his books, all three of which will be on sale or you can buy them from the Brett McGregor web site.