Benjamin Teyssier grew up testing his mother’s baking and licking the wooden spoons from the delicious dishes she would create.
From Montagnes, the largest ski resort area in France, he started life as a graphic artist but he says cooking was always in his blood.
His mother Christina is English and had trained at Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in London, while his father Marc is French.
“She loves to cook and my father loves to eat.”
He eventually left Montagnes to study graphic design in Leon.
“I enjoyed design and I still love painting but eventually I decided, maybe my future was in doing what I do on a canvas but on a plate.”
“Food for me is about harmony. There is a balance to it. Food for me is also about creating, it’s like a challenge.”
“All dishes have a base or a history, like the classic dishes of a country. You can look at the flavours in those classics and change them or modernise them. You can always experiment with things.”
He came to New Zealand for travel and worked at various restaurants.
“I started in Palmerston North and eventually moved to Raglan. Mainly for the surfing.”
“There are a lot of French nationals in Raglan. That was where I met Kersti Meade-Johnstone. Then she wanted to open her own café. We decided to do it together.”
Their café on a quiet Hamilton East street is named The Kirk Café, a nod to Kersti’s British heritage.
“Food is about fresh ingredients. Everything should be made from scratch, that’s most important to me.
”He goes back to France every three to four years but he says New Zealand is definitely home now.
“Europe is not what it used to be. I still consider myself French but if there’s a rugby game on I’ll say I’m a Kiwi,”he jokes.
Steak tartare is one of the true French classics. Benjamin created this delicious salmon version. This makes for an impressive light lunch.
PREP: 15 MINUTES
COOK: 0 MINUTES
1 ½ tablespoons of sweet cherry tomatoes, finely chopped 300 grams of fresh salmon fillet with skin removed and pin-boned 2 tablespoons of shallots, finely diced 2 tablespoons of chives, finely chopped 1 tablespoon of coriander, finely chopped 1 tablespoon of capers, finely chopped 1 tablespoon of gherkins, finely chopped 1 teaspoon of dill, finely chopped Juice of 1 lime 2 avocados, diced into 1cm cubes 1 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil Pinch of flaky sea salt and black pepper Crostini, to serve
Using a sharp knife, finely dice the salmon into approximately ½-1cm cubes.
Mix diced salmon, tomatoes, shallots, chives, coriander, capers, gherkins and dill together. This mixture can keep in the fridge for up to 4 hours until you are ready to serve.
When ready to serve, mix with lime juice, avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, flaky sea salt and black pepper, to taste.
To assemble, divide mixture evenly and pack into 4 small ramekins. Press mixture down gently, but firmly, with the back of a spoon. Turn each tartare onto individual plates. Serve with crostini on the side.