There is so much to explore in New Zealand, it can be hard to know where to begin. Cue the recent event hosted by Broadsheet, where New Zealand’s unique culture was showcased across food, wine, musical and artistic offerings.

The three-hour event at Paramount House Hotel’s Golden Age Cinema & Bar and Paramount Recreation Club, themed Aotearoa Awaits, featured New Zealand wines curated by Max Walker from Paranormal Wines and a special three-course snack menu from New Zealand-born Amber Doig, head chef of The Butler.

Despite now living in Australia, Doig remains a champion of New Zealand produce. She incorporates many native New Zealand ingredients into her menus at The Butler, weaving them into the restaurant’s Latin American focus.

“I went back to what I think New Zealand encapsulates when it comes to food,” says Doig of the menu she plated for Aotearoa Awaits. “We have our oceans and our forests, and rainforests and rugged farmland as well. I wanted to take an element from each for each course.”

Doig’s one-off snacks menu opened with a snapper and clam ceviche with coconut cream and avocado oil, with Proper Crisps-brand tortilla chips on the side. “New Zealand snapper is abundant around the country,” Doig says. “You can pretty much drop a line in anywhere and catch it. And Cloudy Bay clams are a well-known industry around Marlborough, with the crystal-clear waters there. Raw fish with coconut cream is a big thing with Māori and Pacific Islanders, as well as with our neighbours in the outer Islands, so I really wanted to include that dish.”

As a Māori woman born and raised in Christchurch, Doig wanted to highlight native ingredients and evoke the culture of hunting and gathering in the forests. So, her second course featured seared and smoked venison loin rubbed with a mix of native forest spices, including horopito and kawakawa, and served with a feijoa salsa that harks back to her grandmother’s feijoa chutney.

“Just working on the land is so much a part of the New Zealand lifestyle, whether it be fishing or hunting,” she says. “Venison is really abundant where I’m from in Canterbury, and feijoa is an iconic New Zealand ingredient -the sweetness goes really well with the gaminess of the venison.”

For dessert, Doig created bite-sized panna cotta, that heroed Mānuka honey, Heilala Vanilla and golden kiwifruit.

Creating the menu brought her right back to New Zealand’s abundance of world-class produce, where Regal and Ōra King salmon flourish in the Marlborough Sounds, not far from its world-famous wine country.

“There’s a lot of continuity between the wine country and the connected food industries,” says Doig. “You pass cheese factories, wineries, olive groves and ladies selling chutneys on the side of the road. An hour’s drive can take you two hours if you wanted to stop and try the fruits of the land.”

Doig is thrilled whenever she has the opportunity to travel back and visit her family in New Zealand, and aims to continue highlighting the country’s distinctive produce in her work as a chef. “Whether it’s using certain seasonings or having New Zealand scampi on special, I always try to support our industries as much as possible over here,” she says. “It’s not just bias: it’s delicious as well. Everyone deserves to have it, not just us in New Zealand.”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Tourism New Zealand.