I love the fact that the now legendary annual Cheesecake Festival at Smith & McKenzie originally started out as a bit of a joke... Sitting round trying to come up with ways of doing something to support and give back to the local community whilst simultaneously promoting their venue, somebody who'd spent time in America suggested a Cheesecake Festival. Originally laughed at as something that wouldn't take off, they decided to explore the idea, got some local schools and community groups on board and now, in its sixth year since launching in 2010, it has become their most successful annual event!
Every year the participants are sent out a letter with the basic idea, general guidelines to follow and a few suggestions to help them in creating their cheesecakes. Each school or community group then generally submits 2 entries and these are judged by the chefs and staff at S&M to ensure that there is variety across the board. Once the selection has been decided on they are made continuously throughout August, displayed in the glass cabinet at the entrance way to the restaurant and available to purchase by the slice.
$1 from every slice sold gets donated back to the school or organisation that created it and everybody gets a glass voting bead with their selection to vote for their favourite. At the end of the festival, these votes are combined with the top sales per cheesecake to determine the winner. The winner of the most sales and votes gets either a $500 book voucher or bar tab at S&M. The top two cheesecakes are then featured on the Smith & McKenzie dessert menu for the whole next year! A pretty cool idea.
The school kids and community groups who've created the cheesecakes love the fact that people are sampling their creations, every child from each competing school gets a free cheesecake voucher to come and enjoy a slice with their family and at the end of the day, who doesn't love cheesecake?! This year there are 10 entrants and some really interesting creations:
- Lemon, Coconut & Passionfruit - St. Joseph's School
- White Chocolate, Caramel & Smarties - Hukanui School
- Toffee Apple - Rototuna School
- Salted Macadamia & Caramel - Woodstock School
- Jaffa - Te Totara School
- Baked Red Velvet - Gordonton School
- Affogato - Wanderers Football
- Piña Colada - Rototuna Rebels
- Chilli Chocolate - Chartwell Volunteer Firefighters
- Dark Chocolate & Raspberry - Star Jam
Last year they got through 1500 slices of cheesecake and this year they are hoping to hit 2000. So I encourage all of you to pop on down to Smith & McKenzie, sample a slice and support your local schools and community groups. They are available all day and the lovely staff will happily help you choose if you can't decide, they all love the Cheesecake Festival as much as the diners do, because they know it is for a great cause and they are giving back to their community. Even some of the suppliers get on board sponsoring the event and they couldn't do it without Tatua, Bidvest & Gilmoures. And in case you need one last bit of persuasion, each slice bought also comes with an entry form to win a whole cheesecake - one given away each week!
Now if someone would just come up with an annual crumble festival, I'd be in double heaven...
Thank you Smith & McKenzie for such a fabulous, fun festival and wishing all of the schools and organisations Good Luck!!
Love Holly x