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Search for New Zealand's Top Toastie is Back for 2024

Search for New Zealand's Top Toastie is Back for 2024

Winter is about to get a whole lot tastier (or should we say toastier?) as the seventh annual Great New Zealand Toastie Takeover kicks off this week.

With a mouthwatering line-up of toasted sandwiches on offer, the showcase sees an impressive170 eateries from across Aotearoa serving up their own unique take on this iconic Kiwi snack.

And with this year’s competition now officially underway, toastie fans can look forward to two glorious months of sizzling sandwich goodness as venues battle it out for the title of the nation’s top toastie between now and late August.

Open to all New Zealand eateries, this year’s participants range from sandwich specialists to city bistros, breweries and food trucks, with a winery, a butchery and the nation’s best bread makers also in the mix.

There are toasties to be had everywhere, from Cambridge to Clyde, Greytown to Geraldine, Katikati to Kaikoura, Mangawhai to Morrinsville, Papamoa to Petone, Rotorua to Rangiora and Whitianga to Wanaka.

The nation’s top breweries out in force, with entries from Urbanaut, Churleys and Hallertau in Auckland, Shining Peak in Taranaki, Abandoned and Baylands in Porirua and Lower Hutt, and BEERS in Christchurch, along with Monte Christo Winery in Otago. 

Also notable this year is the multitude of cuisines on offer - everything from Spanish, to Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Indian, Italian, Mexican, American BBQ, and of course Kiwiana-style entries.

As always originality and innovation are on show in this year’s entries, with chefs serving up toasties bursting with lobster and prawn bisque, wild boar bacon, black pudding, bolognaise, chicharones (crispy fried pork), slow cooked pork vindaloo, carnitas (heritage breed pork, fried and confit in its own fat), wild caught Fiordland venison, Mapo tofu and Birria short rib.

Equally adventurous on the condiment front, there is pickle cheesecake mix, cricket salt and tobacco onions to be had, along with buffalo aji roja (Peruvian pepper sauce), three cheese fondue, cauliflower cheese, vodka curry sauce, cowboy butter, pork crackling salted chips with pork gravy, pickle caviar crème fraiche dip and a pickle-back Bloody Mary Shooter.

Bread lovers are in for a treat with soft and fluffy Asian style thick loaf, wakame seaweed and pickle juice sourdough, toasted spring onion pancake, and brown butter toasted turmeric ciabatta, and top bread makers Daily Bread, Wild Wheat and Volare in the mix this year too.

In Mount Maunganui, last year’s winner The Freeport with Cleaver & Co is aiming for a repeat with its ‘Holey Cheese & Bacon’ toastie, featuring house cured and smoked pancetta strips, Maasdam cheese, McClure’s pickle salsa and onion jam on house-baked focaccia bread, with. crunchy spuds and McClure’s pickle caviar crème fraiche dip.

While in Rotorua, 2022’s winner Okere Falls is going all out with ‘Figgy in the Middle’, featuring Swiss cheese, pickle cheesecake mix, walnuts, figs, streaky bacon, rocket, chilli honey, blue cheese and McClure’s Pickles, inside buttered sourdough and with copious amounts of parmesan grated on top. 

With participating eateries vying for a spot in the competition’s final round, it’s now up to the team of 30-plus judges - overseen by head judge Kerry Tyack - to eat their way around all 170 venues, in order to decide which sandwiches will make it to the final 12. Each toastie will be scored on set criteria including presentation, preparation, eat-ability, taste, provenance and innovation.

Competition rules remain the same as in previous years. Each toastie must be sandwiched between two slices of bread and able to be eaten by hand. The toasted sandwich must contain cheese, or an acceptable vegan substitute, and pickles from the McClure’s Pickles range. Everything else is up to the maker’s imagination.

Finalists will be revealed August 5, and after a second round of judging – and more opportunity for the public to sample the judges’ top picks - the supreme winner will be announced August 21.

The People’s Choice Award also returns in 2024 giving Kiwis the power to vote for their favourite participating eatery and toastie. The eatery with the most votes from the public wins.

Judge and co-founder of McClure’s Pickles, Joe McClure, has a message for toastie fans: “If you’re a toastie lover, here’s your chance to support your favourite eateries. Get out there and try some of these incredible toastie creations and don’t forget to vote in the People’s Choice Award.”

Last year’s competition saw a massive 150,000 toasted sandwiches consumed across the three months of the competition, and a bumper line-up of 14 finalists hailing from Auckland, Rotorua, Hamilton, Mount Maunganui, Havelock North, New Plymouth, Wellington, Christchurch, Nelson, Ashburton and Lumsden.

Taking top honours for 2023 was talented young chef Brooke Moore from Mount Maunganui’s Freeport with Cleaver & Co with her impressive creation Surf, Turf & Smoke, Monsieur!

A standout for competition judges, Freeport’s winning toastie featured housemade smoked lamb pastrami, smoked prawns, mozzarella, smoked cheddar sauce and McClure’s Sweet & Spicy Pickles, sandwiched between locally-made BreadHead miso tahini sourdough and served with smoked aioli and pickle juice gel.

Competition winners from previous years include Brooke Moore from Mount Maunganui’s Freeport with Cleaver & Co (2023), Rich Johns from Okere Falls Store and Craft Beer in Rotorua (2022), Steve MacDougall from Mollies, Hotel D’Urville in Blenheim (2021), Romeo Dowling Mitchell from Hungry Hobos Dunedin (2020), and Joseph Walker from the Hokitika Sandwich Company Hokitika (2019).

So what are you waiting for toastie fans? A full list of participating eateries is available here.

The Great NZ Toastie Takeover 2024 is brought to you by Cook & Nelson and McClure’s Pickles.

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