Q&As with the Nestle Golden Chef’s Hat Finalists

The National Final of Australia’s longest running culinary competition for young chefs will be held at Fine Food Australia from Monday 11 – Tuesday 12 September, with the Awards being held on Wednesday 13 September. Finalist teams will cook-off live in front of an industry audience in purpose built kitchens.

All finalists will have the opportunity to win medals for achievement to nationally recognised standards in entrée, main and dessert course categories. Entrants could become nationally recognised as the best junior or apprentice chefs in the industry. Better still, the winners of the 2017 competition will be awarded with a $15,000 culinary experience trip of a lifetime to Vietnam. Here’s a short Q&A with each of the 2017 finalists.

 

Team Queensland Metro

Leader: Sammuel Lee
Age: 22
Works at: The Brisbane Club
Place of study: TAFE QLD Brisbane (Southbank)
Regional team medal: Silver

Q: If you could cook for anyone, who would it be?
A: Gordon Ramsay as he is a perfectionist and learns quickly from his successes and failures.

Q: Best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Always be open to learn. Work hard and never give up on your dreams even when nobody believes that they can come true, but you.

 

Assistant: Eve Sheraton
Age: 18
Works at: The Brisbane Club
Place of study: TAFE QLD Brisbane (Southbank)
Regional team medal: Silver

Q: If you could cook for anyone who would it be?
A: I love cooking for anyone, no matter who it is but if I was to choose it would be Marco Pierre White.

Q: Chef inspiration?
A: The people I work with everyday. They are not only exceptional chefs but lifelong friends.

Q: Best advice I’ve ever been given?
A: Through all you do, stay true to yourself.

 

Team South Australia

Leader: Abbey Wendland
Age: 22
Works at: Adelaide Oval
Place of study: Quality Training & Hospitality College, Adelaide
Regional team medal: Silver

Q: Proudest moment in life as a chef?
A: Winning Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat last year.

Q: Best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Go with your gut and don’t worry what anyone else has to say. Also that teams that work together get the job done.

Q: Motivation for competing again?
A: To better myself as a chef.

 

Assistant: Mahlet Girma
Age: 24
Works at: Adelaide Oval
Place of study: TAFE SA (Regency International Centre)
Regional team medal: Silver

Q: The best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Never stop learning, being creative and having fun at the same time.

Q: Motivation for competing?
A: My reasons for competing in this brilliant competition are many, but most importantly the great young chefs we meet, the amazing mentoring, the opportunity to be creative with food and – if we’re lucky enough to win again – the trip of a lifetime!

Q: Most memorable culinary moment?
A: Winning the competition last year. A huge highlight for me and my family.

Q: Pet peeves in the kitchen?
A: People with no motivation.

Q: Proudest moment in life as a chef?
A: I’m proud everyday because I’m doing something I love.

 

Team Australian Capital Territory

Leader: Jasmine Sawa
Age: 20
Works at: Monster Kitchen and Bar
Place of study: Canberra Institute of Technology
Regional team medal: Silver

Q: Proudest moment in life as a chef?
A: Finishing my apprenticeship the week before I turned 20. I worked hard to complete it at a young age.

Q: Best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Work hard, believe in yourself and don’t let success get to your head.

Q: Pet peeves in the kitchen?
A: Arrogance. People thinking that they are above others, even when they are the same level.

 

Assistant: Kyle Williams
Age: 21
Works at: Monster Kitchen and Bar
Place of study: Canberra Institute of Technology
Regional team medal: Silver

Q: The best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Make sure that your mise en place is perfect so that your section can be efficient, then you don’t have to worry about imperfections ruining the dish.

Q: Chef inspiration?
A: Martin Benn from Sepia and Grant Achatz from Alinea who are recreating the way food is made, presented and eaten.

Q: Most memorable culinary moment?
A: My first main and dessert at Monster Kitchen and Bar. It made me feel like I had reached a higher level of cooking because of the positive feedback the dishes had.

Team Tasmania

Leader: Emily Hanson
Age: 21
Works at: Wrest Point Casino
Place of study: TasTAFE (Drysdale)
Regional team medal: Silver

Q: Who is your chef hero, inspiration? Why?
A: Amaury Guichon. He’s still quite young and has achieved so much as a pastry chef.

Q: Best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Hard work always pays off.

Q: Pet peeves in the kitchen?
A: People that aren’t passionate about their work. If you’re not passionate about your job then maybe it isn’t the job for you – find what you love.

 

Assistant: Sam Peart
Age: 21
Works at: The Glass House
Place of study: Industry Link Training
Regional team medal: Silver

Q: If you could cook for anyone who would it be?
A: My Grandmother, Grace.

Q: Pet peeves in the kitchen?
A: When people don’t put things back where they belong.

Q: Best advice I’ve ever been given?
A: Follow your passions and don’t get stuck somewhere you don’t want to be.

Team New South Wales Regional

Leader: Billy Fox
Age: 20
Works at: Carrington Place
Place of study: TAFE NSW Illawarra, Wollongong
Regional team medal: Silver

Q: The best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Everyone makes mistakes when competing, but it’s how you come back from the mistakes that make or break you.

Q: Proudest moment in life as a chef?
A: Making it to the 2016 national finals.

Q: Pet peeves in the kitchen?
A: Peeling garlic.

 

Assistant: Ben Richards
Age: 23
Works at: Carrington Place
Place of study: Quality Training & Hospitality College, Newcastle
Regional team medal: Silver

Q: The best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Opportunities multiply as they are seized.

Q: Have you been in any other cooking competitions?
A: No, this is my first but I’m keen to bring in a win.

Q: Who is your chef hero/inspiration?
A: Tim Montgomery (my boss).
He taught me to cook with confidence in myself.

Q: Pet peeves in the kitchen?
A: Sarcastic kitchen hands.

 

Team Queensland Regional

Leader: Ashleigh Otto
Age: 23
Works at: Pullman Cairns International
Place of study: TAFE Queensland North
Regional team medal: Silver

Q: Proudest moment in life as a chef?
A: Achieving a gold medal in the Nestlé regionals cook-off last year.

Q: Who is your chef hero?
A: Heston Blumenthal. His creativity is remarkable and intriguing.

Q: Best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Work smarter not harder.

Q: Motivation for competing again?
A: To gain more confidence and develop my skills.

 

Assistant: Kayla Cooper
Age: 22
Works at: Pullman Cairns International
Place of study: TAFE Queensland North
Regional team medal: Silver

Q: The best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Work clean.

Q: Motivation for competing?
A: To develop my skills as a chef.

Q: If you could cook for anyone who would it be?
A: The Queen.

Q: Who is your chef hero?
A: Gordon Ramsay because he is a great chef and inspires me.

 

Team Victoria

Leader: Kimberly Tang
Age: 20
Works at: Crown Melbourne (Nobu)
Place of study: Crown College
Regional team medal: Gold

Q: The best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

Q: Motivation for competing again?
A: I want another shot at the experience and exposure it gave me last time. We’re hungry to take out gold and a win for Victoria, as they’ve not won in a long time.

Q: Most memorable culinary moment?
A: The finals last year. I got to connect and make friendships with like-minded peers that will last for a long time.

 

Assistant: Bridget Bottcher
Age: 22
Works at: Crown Melbourne (Nobu)
Place of study: William Angliss Institute
Regional team medal: Gold

Q: If you cook for anyone who would it be?
A: I love cooking great food for the ones I love.

Q: Best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Work hard and things will click into place in time.

Q: Motivation for competing again?
A: Kim and I competed last year, we both learnt and gained so much through the experience and we wanted to come back to show how far we’ve come in the last year.

 

Team Northern Territory

Leader: Praveen Rodrigo
Age: 24
Works at: Double Tree by Hilton Hotel Darwin
Place of study: William Angliss Institute
Regional team medal: Gold

Q: Most memorable culinary moment?
A: Being able to inspire young kids in primary school as to how hard work pays off.

Q: Best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Have a clear mind in the kitchen at all times, rely on what you know and less is more.

Q: Motivation for competing?
A: It helps me open my eyes and mind to new techniques and ways I can use different ingredients.

Q: Proudest moment in life as a chef?
A: The day my parents got to see me run the pass in my work kitchen, (having just been promoted as the youngest chef to be second in charge of the kitchen).

Q: Who is your chef hero?
A: Peter Kuruvita because he started from humble beginnings and stayed true to his roots by using Sri Lankan spices and techniques.

 

Assistant: Billy Wilkes
Age: 19
Works at: Double Tree by Hilton Hotel Darwin
Place of study: Charles Darwin University (Palmerston)
Regional team medal: Gold

Q: The best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: You must taste everything you cook. Keep playing with your flavours so your cooking never gets dull.

Q: Who is your chef hero?
A: Heston Blumenthal as he cooks in a very creative way and takes food back to the core of it being fun – cooking should always be fun.

Q: Pet peeves in the kitchen?
A: Someone using my knives.

Team New South Wales Metro

Leader: Tyler Khor
Age: 22
Works at: Alseasons Hospitality Agency
Place of study: Le Cordon Bleu, Sydney
Regional team medal: Gold

Q: Proudest moment in life as a chef?
A: When I got to cook for a Prince and Princess from Saudi Arabia.

Q: Best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Always stay humble.
There’s no end point in learning for a chef.

Q: Motivation for competing?
A: I want to make my family and friends proud of me.

 

Assistant: Davy Dai
Age: 20
Works at: Bentley Restaurant & Bar
Place of study: Le Cordon Bleu, Sydney
Regional team medal: Gold

Q: The best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: You have to devote yourself to work.
You must love your job without complaint.

Q: Motivation for competing?
A: I want to expand my horizons.
I want to compete against my peers to find out my shortcomings and strengths.

Q: Most memorable culinary moment?
A: My head chef giving me recognition that I am a super legend.

 

Team Western Australia

Leader: Hudson Stokes
Age: 23
Works at: Sandalford Estate Winery
Place of study: North Metropolitan TAFE (Joondalup)
Regional team medal: Gold

Q: If you could cook for anyone, who would it be?
A: Gordon Ramsay.

Q: Best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: If in doubt, throw it out!

Q: Pet peeves in the kitchen?
A: Messy people.

 

Assistant: Lara Kirby
Age: 19
Works at: Sandalford Estate Winery
Place of study: South Metropolitan TAFE (Bentley)
Regional team medal: Gold

Q: What is your most memorable culinary moment?
A: Making spaghetti with my Nana as a child.

Q: Chef inspiration?
A: Any chef who thinks outside the box and creates something that hasn’t been done before.

Q: Best advice I’ve ever been given?
A: Don’t mistake quality for speed or speed for quality.