Each year, Beef + Lamb New Zealand selects a team of chefs who have displayed exceptional culinary skills during the assessment period, to be Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ambassador chefs for the year. As well as receiving special recognition for their achievement, the Ambassadors are involved in a programme of Beef + Lamb New Zealand activities throughout the year.

(Pictured above from left to right: Harry Williams, Freddie Ponder, Kate Fay, Alistair Forster, Damon McGinniss, and Damon McGinniss Beef dish.)

Damon McGinniss – Emporium Eatery & Bar, Art Deco Masonic Hotel

Damon McGinniss 2018 Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ambassador Chef

Executive Chef Damon McGinniss’ professional background includes establishing and running his own restaurant, three years as Executive Chef at a resort in Wanaka and International work as a New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Food Ambassador.

Food has always been Damon’s passion, and this drive led him, at the tender age of 26, to set up Bistro 1284 in Rotorua along with his wife Megan, voted best restaurant in Rotorua for seven years.   Damon was also a New Zealand Lamb & Beef Ambassador in 2005 and 2007, and won seven Lamb & Beef Hallmark of Excellence awards.

Damon and his family have lived in Hawke’s Bay for four years and he is currently the Executive Chef at the award winning Art Deco Masonic Hotel including their bustling restaurant Emporium Eatery & Bar.


Freddie Ponder – Salt Restaurant

Freddie is 30 years old and has been working in kitchens for 15 years.

Born in London but Kiwi proud, he has been working at Salt on the Waterfront for 3 and a half years.

With his twin brother Richard as sous chef and the rest of the awesome team in the kitchen and front of house, Freddie has a great playground to be creative and try some awesome beef and lamb dishes on Salt's surprise degustation menu that changes daily.

With the fun and relaxed atmosphere Salt has achieved some awesome goals; winning Best Lamb Dish 2016 at the Silver Fern Farm Awards and Richard making the finals in 2017.

Freddie feels very privileged to be involved with New Zealand Beef and Lamb and extremely stoked to be an ambassador for 2018. Bring on the year ahead.

Harry Williams, Head Chef –Alpha Street Kitchen & Bar

Harry started his 20-year culinary career as a qualified butcher which seeded an appreciation of quality products and a good base for a love of New Zealand meats.

This passion inspired Harry to gain formal training and start in Waikato icons such as Seddon House and Tables on the River before owning his own restaurants in Whitianga.

Now back in the Waikato, Harry has been an integral part of the success of Alpha St Kitchen & Bar in Cambridge’s historic National Hotel. His food is well-known for the best quality ingredients along with bringing in international flavours be it from his Samoan heritage, Asian or European. Each dish is carefully thought out with textures, colours and flavours; every plate has an extra element that provides the diner with a little surprise.

Kate Fay – Cibo Parnell

Kate Fay developed her career with time spent cooking overseas and then in some of Auckland’s great institutions. Fay joined Cibo in 1999, which coincided with the 1st time she was named Beef and Lamb Ambassador. Over time her cooking style has evolved through travel and she has managed to capture a blend of Asian and European flavours, and brings to the plate amazing tastes, colours, flavours and textures. Travelling gives her the scope to envisage new, fresh ideas.

She is inspired by high quality, accessible New Zealand ingredients, and churns out casual yet refined cuisine. Her main objective is to capture the essence of primary ingredients and use combinations that enhance and highlight - sensitive to seasons when products are only at their best.

Alistair Forster – Forsters Mahana

Alistair was trained in highly disciplined AA rosetted and Michelin-starred kitchens in the UK, gaining great experience and recognition within the industry. This training laid a foundation by which he has developed his craft over the years. With calm perseverance, he continually elevated his skills and those of the staff around him to the highest standards.

Alistair is the owner of his own restaurant ‘Forsters Mahana’, set in the stunning Mahana Estates vineyard, where he had previously been executive Chef. When opportunity came to take over the restaurant Alistair knew it was one he had to take. Having established an excellent reputation for his creative menus and exacting standards.

Alistair sources the finest and freshest of the produce available regionally and across New Zealand. He prepares dishes in a way to showcase those ingredients and natural flavours. His approach to food is simple: source fresh, local and seasonal produce, treat them with respect, and then apply skill and creativity to deliver unique culinary experiences to our guests…experiences not obtainable anywhere else.’

Moving to New Zealand, in 2009, Alistair has worked at luxury lodges along with consulting to lodges throughout New Zealand along with also working with partners such as Tasman Helicopters with their premium experience offering of the Heli Gourmet product and also previously executive chef at the Rutherford Heritage Hotel. He prides himself with maintaining the same standards in his kitchens today, as those where he was trained.