Article that appeared in The News
This article recently appeared in The News, the community paper which services the Waimakariri and Hurunui region. It is reproduced with the writer, Jane Thompson's permission.
Cheviot MasterChef’s Journey will Continue
Being evicted from the MasterChef kitchen and competition hasn’t broken Richard Harris’s ambitions to continue on his food journey; it seems to have made him more determined, and that is largely thanks to the local support he received.
“It wasn’t until I got back to Cheviot that I realised what amazing support I had from the local people and the wider community. That’s when it sunk in how well I did in the competition and how much people loved watching it.”
Earning himself the nickname “the Gentleman Butcher” it was a significant achievement getting to the final five. While it was disappointing to just miss out on two overseas trips (one when he got second in the challenge where first prize was a trip to New York, and then top four went to Dubai), Richard says the competition was an amazing experience.
As to his exit, Richard thinks it was fair enough, and is happy with what he has done. “I don’t think I was good enough on the day. I didn’t notice previously during the challenge that other contestants also had problems with the dish. After watching that episode I thought I was perhaps a little hard done by for a while but it came down to the eating of the desert. I was the worst of all five of us in the judges’ opinion.”
So are there plans afoot to set up a restaurant or café in the region? Not likely is the answer. “I have had lots of experience in restaurants before in Australia, and know it is very, very hard work. I don’t intend heading in that direction, I am more interested in educating and sharing my knowledge and passion for food with people in other ways.”
One way Richard intends doing this is through his work in the family business, Harris Meats. He can be found serving customers in the Cheviot butcher shop on most Fridays, but the rest of the week he is either visiting clients, working on new products or improving systems at the company’s factory in Domett. There are plans to do more promotion work, from doing in-store demonstrations and tastings for the Harris Meats clients, through to making a guest appearance at the Amberley A & P Show in October.
“As I have been on a journey with MasterChef, a lot of people have shared that journey with me so I would like to continue that journey in a way people can still come with me. We have also set up a recipe page on the Harris Meats website and I also tell more of my story on line, in a blog type page, saying where I am heading, and telling more of the background, not just about me but about food, about the region.”
Richard is very keen to take the opportunity with his new found fame to educate people that it is very possible to produce a meal without a lot of ingredients and that it is by far best to use seasonal produce. “This is a focus we will have on the Harris Meats website, I want to help people learn about what is in season and what is the best thing to cook at whatever time of the year it is. I would like to encourage children to take an active role in cooking at home. I know sometimes parents don’t have the time to have the kids involved as it is all about getting a meal on the table. But it is also all about having fun with food and sharing.”
North Canterbury has a lot to offer according to Richard. “It definitely has huge potential as a food destination. There are a lot of very talented people in the region doing a lot of work. There’s a good farmers market in Amberley and people are doing a major push to get North Canterbury products such as meat, wine, cheeses, truffles and olive oils really well known in the wider community. There are a lot of silent achievers. For instance, Michael Voumard and his partner Ali in Gore Bay are growing amazing and quite different vegetables. Their garden is quite unique to the area. There is a lot of hard work needed to put the area on the map, promote the area, attract people to the area but we can all contribute to that.”
Richard has some longer term plans to do exactly that, whether it be through more writing or perhaps even some foodie tours. No, the heat hasn’t gone off in Richard’s kitchen.