Among thousands of hopeful chefs from more than 90 countries around the globe who entered to compete to be named S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016, five South Africans are in the running for the title.
S.Pellegrino’s annual culinary talent-search to find the best young chef in the world pits applicants younger than 30, who have had at least one year’s experience working in a restaurant as a chef, sous chef or chef de partie, against one another.
Last month the global shortlist representing 20 regions was curated, before ALMA, the Italian culinary school, selected the top 10 semi-finalists from each region. The entrants’ applications and signature dishes were judged according to five golden rules: ingredients, skills, genius, beauty and message.
The 10 Africa-Middle East semi-finalists include:
1. Andrew McKinnon: Sous chef at DW Eleven-13, Johannesburg
2. Jean-Claude Wagener: Sous chef at Something Good Roadhouse, Port Elizabeth
3. Dion Vengatass: Sous chef at the Belmond Mount Nelson Planet Restaurant, Cape Town
4. Dean Jones: Chef at The Tasting Room @ Le Quartier Francais, Franschhoek
5. Phillip Nel: Chef de partie at Rust en Vrede, Stellenbosch
6. Eka Mohamad: Chef at Bateaux, Dubai
7. Gregorie Berger: Chef at Ossiano, Atlantis The Palm, Dubai
8. Michael O’Shea: Sous chef at The Ivy, Dubai
9. Kevin Hook: Chef de Partie at La Spiaggia, Mauritius
10. Azman Harda: Chef de Partie, Nino of Kharafi Global, Kuwait
The regional semi-finalists will now compete in local challenges before a jury of top independent chefs. The contestants’ signature dishes will again be judged on the five golden rules, and the individual winners from each region will move on to the international finals.
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The local challenge for Africa-Middle East semi-finalists will be held at the end of July at a venue yet to be confirmed. Chefs Chantel Dartnall (2014’s Eat Out S.Pellegrino chef of the year and executive chef at Restaurant Mosaic outside Pretoria), Meryem Cherkaoui and Christopher Lester have been named as this year’s jury. By the end of August 2016, the 20 best young chefs from all the regions will be announced. They’ll each be assigned a mentor chef who will advise them on how to improve their signature dishes and help them prepare for the global finals.
The competition concludes with the 20 finalists competing in the Grand Finale on 13 October in Milan, Italy. It will involve two demanding days of cooking in front of the Seven Sages jury, an esteemed panel that includes award-winning local chef David Higgs.