For the vast majority of people buying pâté means picking up a pack of something at the supermarket, and to be fair many of these products aren’t too bad, but if you want a beautiful pâté then you need to try freshly made products.
If you see pâté or terrine on a restaurant menu then you can almost guarantee it has been made freshly, either in-house or by a premium local producer.
Exceptional hand-crafted pâtés are just so different in flavour and texture to the pre-packaged made-in-bulk product you will wonder why you bothered with the inferior stuff, to find beautiful fresh pâtés you need to check out the Craft French Pate stall at the Saturday market in Montgomery Square, Benoit Gourgues makes some of the finest pâtés, chicken liver parfait and rillettes you will find anywhere in New Zealand.
Last week I sat down and had a chat with the man behind the products and his partner, Anne Karschunke, to find out the differences between the products, what makes them so special and why they chose Nelson as their new home.
Let’s start with the different products; Benoit says pâté is a mixture of ground meat that together with some spices, herbs, wine and cognac becomes a wonderful appetizer, chicken liver parfait is similar to a pâté, but lighter and smoother, almost like a mousse, and he says “chicken livers are very flavoursome and give the dish an extra taste. Leave it in the fridge for a day or two and the full taste develops.”
Rillette is a rustic pâtécommonly made from slow cooked and shredded pork that has been confit in its own fat, it is a classic French charcuterie spread that has more of a stringy texture and is deliciously old fashioned, similar to pâté and makes a great appetizer on fresh bread, crackers alongside gherkins and pickled onions.
I asked Benoit why he decided to make these delicious products here for you and me to enjoy; “like any true Frenchman I am passionate about food, I grew up in the Bordeaux region that is famous for its excellent wine and food.
“I left France in 2014 and settled in Nelson and I was soon missing some of the authentic flavours I grew up with, especially the high-quality pâté, terrines and confits Bordeaux is famous for, so I decided to make the products here using authentic French techniques but with New Zealand ingredients of course.
“New Zealand has amazing products, very good quality as long as you work with the right suppliers, I try to be picky and always give priority to free range and stay as local as possible. I do care about where the Ingredients come from, because I believe if the animal has a good life they taste good.”
Benoit has a background as a pastry chef, a trade he learnedafter he left school when he was 17, “I started learning about pastry then worked for 15 years as a pastry chef in catering and restaurants including the Michelin starred Tetedoie in Lyon, and when I was working in these places I also learned the more commercial ways of making pâtés.
“I grew up watching my mum and grandmother making them at home but making them in larger commercial quantities is quite different.”
When Benoit left France he came to Nelson because of its caving, “Nelson has some amazing caves, they are famous around the world, I enjoyed them for about three years, working full-time at the Sweet As Café on Trafalgar Street and caving whenever I could, at the same time I realised New Zealand has amazing products.”
Anne is Swiss German, after school she decided to travel and ended up working for Xerox in Ireland for four years; “I went back home and worked for the same company while I saved money to travel to New Zealand in 2013 and got stuck here, after two years I ran out of money but managed to get a working visa so I am still here.”
Anne has worked in the tourism industry since she has been here, firstly at R&R Sport and now for Gravity Nelson, a mountain biking business, “we both love the outdoors and using lovely produce to make food, I have even started making cheese at home.”
One thing that really impressed me is the way Benoit has gone about setting up his business, he knew it takes a lot more than just being able to cook to have a successful business so he completed a business course at Barbican Training and has recently started working with a business mentor from the Nelson Tasman Business Trust.
“I had been thinking about making pâté for about three years, I started in a friend’s kitchen trying things out but it’s only a year ago that Anne and I started Craft Pâté, I have had a lot of support from people, Barbican have amazing teachers who had lots of tips and they made sure I set up a business not just a hobby” says Benoit.
He has been working at Morri St Café for the last year and uses their kitchen to make his products, “a lot of people have helped us, lending equipment, friends to test the product, my flatmate is an engineer and he designed the whole market display to keep the product chilled at the market where I don’t have power, Monkey design have designed the logo and did all the design work and other stallholders have given us lots of advice and have been very helpful once we got to the point of setting it up.”
“The council also helped a lot, I asked what we needed to do to set up a food business and they were fantastic and very supportive, they helped a lot setting it up from a food safety point of view.”
While Benoit uses traditional techniques to make his delicious products he also makes sure he has new flavours for his customers to try, “I try and have a different product each month, I do love exotic flavours but believe that with very good quality ingredients even a simple rillette is amazing as it really enhances the nutty taste of the pork shoulder.
“There are no boundaries to pâté, you can go really crazy if you want to and I just love to try things, Cranky Goat gave me some fresh smoked goat cheese so I made a pate with it, I try and have different textures and strength of flavour so there is something to suit everyone.”
The couple say they love Nelson and the people, “it is an amazing adventure that started about a year ago and the market gives people a great opportunity to start a business, it is great to be part of it.”
Benoit is working on other French products, lets hope they come to fruition because the products they currently have are very special indeed.