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Local chef represents SA at world chef event in Italy

If you think cooking dinner for 250 people is a scary thought, imagine doing it in a strange kitchen with a team of chefs from all over the world – and then having to transport the food you made up in a ski lift. That was the task that faced chef Liam Tomlin, of Chefs Warehouse, earlier this month when he attended the recent CARE’s The ethical Chef Days event in Alta Badia, Italy.

The event sees the world’s top chefs coming together for a three-day programme of master classes, workshops, and some pretty large-scale cooking experiences. As winner of the Eat Out S. Pellegrino and Acqua Panna Chef of the Year, chef Liam Tomlin represented our local culinary scene at the event.

So, how was it?

“Honestly, it was brilliant,” says Liam, who has just returned from Europe. “Firstly, to be in such a beautiful place. Then the experience – we cooked at 3200 metres above sea level, in the village, and then everything went up in the ski lifts.”

Liam was one of eight chefs from around the world chosen to prepare one of eight courses for a dinner for 250 people. On Liam’s menu: the fried fish taco he and his team serve at Thali, which reputedly went down a treat.

“It was full-on. There were eight chefs who all did their own thing, but when service came everyone pitched in and helped everyone else. That was the thing about it that I enjoyed the most. None of us had met each other before, but we all had this one thing in common – a huge passion for food and cooking. And it was so easy. Everyone got on. Everyone was so interested to taste and see what everyone else was doing.”

He also prepared lunch for 90 people.

“I decided to cook the Italians one of their national dishes, but I tweaked it a bit. Vitello tonnato is normally done with the veal smothered in tuna sauce and capers. So I did veal fillets with tataki of tuna, parsley oil, reduced veal jus, and deep-fried garlic – kind of like a deconstructed version of their dish. They loved that!”

The best thing though, says Liam, was the networking opportunity. “It was amazing to work with so many chefs. I was among chefs with one, two and three Michelin stars.” Organiser Norbert Niederkofler from Rosa Alpina has a three-star restaurant called Restaurant St. Hubertus. “Norbert and his team were really amazing and very organised.”

Thanks to the event, Liam has also been invited to cook in Israel, to an event in Germany, and to two events in Ireland, which the Irish-born chef is very excited about. “I haven’t been back since I was 17, so it will be wonderful to go back and cook in my hometown.”

Other big names present included chefs from Peru, Ireland, Moscow, Colombia, Denmark and Turkey. Our very own Michelin-starred Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen was also there. “It’s always nice to catch up with Jan,” says Liam.

And the best thing he tasted? “Everything was incredible. The Italian chefs made a lot of gnocchi, ravioli and pasta, which was all amazing. There was a chef there from Australia who had worked with me for a while, and we used to make this consommé. I still make it, from time to time, with Asian herbs – but he did a version with native Australian herbs and spices, and tasting that again was amazing. That was probably the best thing I ate.”

About the sponsor

Distributed in over 130 countries on all five continents, S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna represent excellence and Italian style. S.Pellegrino, a world-famous sparkling water, is synonymous with gourmet food and wine culture in particular, and is renowned for its support of emerging and established chef talent. The Eat Out S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Chef of the Year Award is one such initiative, recognising an outstanding chef working in South Africa. Read more.

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