Eat Out was excited to be invited to sunny Durban to celebrate South Africa’s chef talent at the Unilever Food Solutions Chef of the Year competition on Thursday 10 September 2015. Marking the 40th anniversary of the competition, the event showcased young chefs’ culinary skills as they competed for the top titles and awards.
The competition took place in the state-of-the-art Unilever kitchens in La Lucia Ridge, where contestants had to participate in mystery basket cook-offs within their category. The awards categories included Canapés, Confectionery, Team of Four, Junior and Senior Chef of the Year.
This was the first year that the competition was endorsed by the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS), with a WACS-accredited judge overseeing the overall judging procedure.
In the nail-biting finals, Jade from 1000 Hills Chef School (a former winner of the Junior category of the competition) went up against five other finalists in a three-hour cook-off for the title of Senior Chef of the Year.
Her menu consisted of a starter of cob with tempura oyster, rice tuile, leek kimchi, garlic cream, tomato velouté, parsley, camembert and red pepper; a main course of pan-fried lamb loin with lamb pâté, melange of vegetables, potato croquette, butternut purée and jus; and a dessert of chocolate mousse with crispy brownie, caramel truffle, vanilla cream, berry jelly, pistachio and meringue.
The junior winner, Michaela Van Der Merwe from Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, presented a three-course menu starting with mussel-stuffed squid with corn salad, herb oil, deep-fried squid, mussels, tentacles and a calamari broth; followed by spiced-rub quail breast with butternut purée, deep-fried quail leg, wilted baby spinach, pickled onion, potato croquette, butternut gremolata and red wine jus; and ending with walnut cake with choc cremeux, cheesecake mousse, caramel sauce, gooseberry-and-strawberry compote and macerated berries.
“Our heartiest congratulations go to Jade as our newest Senior Chef of the Year, as well as to all the other worthy winners in the competition,” said Remco Bol, managing director of Unilever Food Solutions South Africa. “The entire competition was tightly contested in all categories, again proving the exceptional world-class standards that our chefs in South Africa constantly achieve.”
The glitzy awards ceremony was held that night at the grand Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, where winners in all the categories were honoured. The top Team of Four hailed from Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani, the creative Confectionery winner was Belinda Moolman of Protea Hotel Centurion, and the Canapé showcase winner was Richard Ellis from 1000 Hills Chefs School.