The winner of an annual Aotearoa toastie-making competition has been announced and for the third year in a row a South Island eatery has taken it out.
Blenheim's relatively new Mollie's Bar and Eatery, attached to Hotel D'Urville, took top honours in this year's Great NZ Toastie Takeover, which attracted more than 120 entries nationwide and saw more than 80,000 toasties served up to punters.
Chef Steve MacDougall's delicious-surrounding creation 'Mo Jo Pork Cuban with a Twist' contains slow-roasted pork belly, provolone, chimichurri, American mustard, McClure's Pickles and apple chilli gel slathered between toasted sourdough and served with kumara crisps.
Organisers say the sandwich was a standout for customers and competition judges alike.
MacDougall's win marks the third in a row for South Island eateries, with Joseph Walker from the Hokitika Sandwich Company taking the title in 2019 and Romeo Dowling Mitchell from Dunedin's Hungry Hobos winning in 2020.
MacDougall previously made the finals of the 2019 competition while working for another cafe, and says this year's win is particularly sweet after a tough 2020.
He was made redundant during the COVID-19 pandemic and spent nine months at home looking after his young son before taking on the head chef role at Mollie's in December.
MacDougall said he was determined to give the toastie competition another crack.
"Falling at that last hurdle always bugged me, so it was my mission to re-enter the competition, not only to win but because I love the pickles," he said.
"I am honoured, overjoyed and overwhelmed to have won this time around. My 2019 entry [a slow-roasted duck toastie] wasn't for everyone, so this year I tried to please as many as possible with a combination of flavours. I based the whole thing on the classic ham and cheese toastie but took it to a whole new level.
"I wanted to hit all the flavour notes in the sandwich - sweet, spicy, heat, sour and savoury. Crunch and texture and temperature were all considerations, too. It really was a labour of love."
Head judge Kerry Tyack said MacDougall's sandwich was top amongst another superb selection of terrific toasties for 2021.
"Pulled pork, smoky beef, salmon, venison, fried chicken, tofu, ciabatta, sourdough and rye - they all found their way into the hands of toastie lovers this year. It really was so difficult to choose a winner," he said.
"In the end, it came down to which toastie impressed most across all criteria. Mollies nailed it.
"It was a well-orchestrated and harmonious partnership that felt like comfort food through and through."
The toasted sandwich remains on the menu from Tuesday to Saturday, until the end of August.