Gas hobs flaring, knives chopping, saucepans simmering and teamwork at its best, finalists in the National Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge (NSSCC) rose to the challenge as they competed for the top honour at the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) in Auckland.
Winning regional duos from 10 secondary schools around the country put their skills to a pressure cooker test on Saturday as they created four servings of both an entree and main course, all within 90 minutes. To add to the challenge, locally grown beetroot had to feature in the entree, with chicken, potatoes and seasonal New Zealand-grown vegetables key ingredients of the main dish.
With the clock ticking, the Southland team of Abby Johnson and Sophie Craig from Dunedin’s Queen’s High School (above) presented their entree first, 50 minutes into the competition, followed 10 minutes later by the Canterbury Burnside High School duo of Clize Craven and Miku Kiyama.
The first main courses came out simultaneously from Southland ‘s Abby and Sophie and last year’s winners Louis Clarke and Chakkapong Klahan from Nelson College.
After a gruelling 90 minutes of cooking and a nerve-wracking wait as the judges deliberated, Burnside High School’s Clize and Miku got the winning nod from the judges for their two dishes: entree – golden beetroot fritter with baby chioggia and red saute, goat’s cheese, and beetroot chips accompanied by a rich beetroot sauce. And for main – chicken breast filled with semi-dried tomato and preserved lemon on a crumbed parmesan potato cake with petite sausage, char-roasted seasonal vegetables with jus, and tomato butter sauce.
Clize and Miku said a lot of hard work went into preparing for the event and the win made it all worthwhile.
“We did well – and so did the other contestants. We are proud of our effort and would like to thank our teachers for helping us to achieve what we have.”
The duos were scored across a number of criteria – food preparation, food safety, timing, sustainable cooking practice – including minimisation of food waste – presentation, taste and the use of New Zealand-grown seasonal vegetables, potatoes and chicken.
NSSCC event organiser and judge, Glenn Fulcher from City & Guilds: “The teamwork all the competitors displayed while they were cooking was outstanding, they were all very nervous to start with but rose to the challenge and presented amazing dishes for judging.
“It was fantastic to see all the supporters here watching, they really helped quell the students’ nerves and encourage them to perform at their best.”
Chief judge, Chef Mark Wylie of Cater Plus, said in end it was a tough and close decision. “All the judges were impressed by the creativity and thought that had gone into each dish the students served. They had taken their dishes to the next level by sourcing and including local, regional produce in their recipes, it was truly outstanding and it reflected in the taste and presentation of the final dishes.
“The judging panel enjoys this event every year, shown by the same judging panel returning year on year. We all enjoy the creativity and flavour these up and coming chefs present to us.”
NZChicken Executive Director, and NSSCC major co-sponsor, Michael Brooks said it was exciting to see the excitement and enthusiasm of the young competitors at the national final, as well as the very high level of skill and creativity – and deliciousness – achieved in their dishes.
“The winning entries are truly restaurant-quality and for all competitors the event opens very real career pathways into the hospitality industry. It’s also an excellent opportunity for the young chefs of tomorrow to gain an understanding of the quality and versatility of New Zealand chicken.”
Judges at the NSSCC 2015 final were; chief judge, chef Mark Wylie of Cater Plus; Ben Bayly, chef at Baduzzi and The Grove restaurants in Auckland and judge on TVNZ’s hit show MKR NZ; John Kelleher, AUT University senior lecturer – Professional Cookery; Craig Lucas, chef lecturer at Manukau Institute of Technology’s Culinary School (MIT) and Jeremy Schmid, owner/chef at The Officer’s Mess at Fort Takapuna.
The winning duo each receives a $2000 study scholarship and a trip to Tahiti to represent New Zealand at the International Secondary Schools Competition ISSCC in October. Their school receives a $1000 Bidvest voucher and a Blue Seal turbofan oven and stand from Moffat New Zealand.
Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded to all of the students, the duo with the most points won overall honours.
See www.nsscc.nz for full details.