Yesterday afternoon Opulent Living hosted a function at The Reserve at Taj Cape Town, to introduce food writers to the seven Finalist Young Chef of the Year candidates, and to allow their creative canapés to be tasted.
The canapés form one part of the evaluation of who wins the Chefs who Share Young Chef of the Year 2015, the other part of the evaluation being the handling of the chefs of themselves in the next 48 hours, including during the Chefs who Share Gala Dinner taking place in the City Hall on Thursday evening.
Opulent Living sent 75 restaurants and hotels invitations for their chefs aged 29 years and younger to participate in the competition. A total of 43 chefs entered, meeting the brief of creating a canapé not costing more than R25 each, and for the chefs to be available in Cape Town from 8 – 10 September. The chefs had to send a recipe and methodology, a photograph, and further background information about their canapé, which was evaluated by a panel of judges consisting of Chef and TV presenter Lentswe Bhengu, Chef Tracey Younghusband, Silwood Vice-Principal Carianne Wilkinson, Food24 editor Tessa Purdon, cooking celebrity Naz Moosa, and Opulent Living’s Florian Gast.
Chef Reto Mathis of Swiss Air flew into Cape Town yesterday afternoon, and is the international patron of Chefs who Share Young Chef of The Year Award. He told me that he cooked at the Good Food and Wine Show in Cape Town two years ago. He said that the Young Chef competition reflects the theme of ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’ of the Milan Expo this year. He and Lentswe will evaluate the canapé creations, and the interaction by the young chefs with the Chefs who Share chefs they will work with from today.
Seven Finalist chefs were selected, and arrived in Cape Town yesterday. They had to create their canapés, for presentation for photography, and then for the guests to try with the sparkling wine. Each chef had to introduce his/her canapé, the explanation giving us a hint of how confident the chefs are, some coming across as a little more reserved.
* Germaine Esau, Sous Chef at Makaron Restaurant: ‘Beef in the vines under African skies, an enrobed beef tartare on a potato crisp, very creatively presented on vine branches. Germaine is an experienced competition winner, having already won the 2014 Unilever Food Solutions Senior Chef of the Year, second in the 2013 Young Chef of the Year of the Cape Chaîne de Rôtisseurs, and joint 4th in the International Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs in 2014. He has previously worked at The Tasting Room, Bread & Wine, Blaauwklippen, and Delaire Graff.
* Ludwig van Biljon, Demi Chef de Partie at Indochine at Delaire Graff: ‘Singaporean Laksa panna cotta’, with tuna tartare, tangy cucumber, and a curry paste, creating strong Asian flavours. Nice was to see the flowers in the canapé design, the only one of the seven chefs to use flowers.
* Etienne Wessels, Chef de Partie at Bosman’s Restaurant, Grande Roche: ‘Motion of the ocean’, an attractive presentation with shells, using poached oyster and compressed apple. He studied at Warwick Chefs School in Hermanus, and worked at Granny Mouse Country House in the Midlands before joining Grande Roche two years ago.
* Jamie-Lee Saunders, Commis Chef at Red Indigo Restaurant, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve: ‘Pink peppercorn macaroon with duck liver pâté and candied apples’, a very popular canapé, and the first to be finished.
* Anand Bhana, Demi Chef de Partie at Hartford House: ‘Ocean Adventure’. I was lucky to meet the KwaZulu-Natal Finalist Anand Bhana at Hartford House last month, who joined their kitchen in June, after having done an internship at the five-star country hotel earlier this year. He is excited to have been named a Finalist so soon in his culinary career. The Hartford House job is his first since completing his 18-month studies at the Prue Leith Chef’s Academy. For his canape he made pasta dough, to which he added squid ink, making it look like black coral reef when deep-fried. He added salmon gravadlux, lemon and orange zest, herb cream cheese, topped it with green cucumber and apple pearls, and garnished it with dried salmon skin.
Today the Young Chef of The Year Finalists have to be ready at 8h00, and will be taken to the kitchen of one of the two chefs with whom they have been paired:
*. Chef Marisa Botes will work with Chefs Christo Pretorius of Azure Restaurant and Virgil Kahn of Indochine
*. Chef Anand Bhana will work with Chefs Malika van Reenen of Signal Restaurant and Gregory Czarnecki of Waterkloof Restaurant
* Chef Ludwig van Biljon has been paired with Chefs Rudi Liebenberg of the Belmond Mount Nelson, and Marthinus Ferreira of DW Eleven-13
* Chef Etienne Wessels of Bosman’s Restaurant will work with Chefs Michelle Theron of Pierneef à La Motte and Bertus Basson of Overture.
* Chef Germaine Esau will assist Chefs Garth Almazan of Catharina’s and Darren Badenhorst of Grande Provence
* Chef Jamie-Lee Saunders is lucky to work with Chefs Scot Kirton of La Colombe and Chantel Dartnall of Mosaic Restaurant
* Chef Edna Visser will assist Chefs Jürgen Schneider of Springfontein Eats and Chris Erasmus of Foliage.
They will plan the creation of 120 of their canapés for presentation to the Chefs who Share Gala Dinner guests at the City Hall on Thursday evening, served with their Moët & Chandon Imperial welcome drink. They will also spend time at the Amy Biehl Foundation offices in Rondebosch today, helping to cook for 35 persons. Tomorrow they will finish off their canapés and will assist their Chef teams in the preparation of their four courses for the Gala Dinner.
MC Lenstwe Bhengu gave the Young Chef of the Year Finalists the advice for their road ahead, saying that they need the goal to achieve more, then add a dash of passion, as well as a pinch of creativity.
Barbara Lenhard sketched the journey of Chefs who Share over the past three years, an idea which she had conceptualised with Chefs Rudi Liebenberg and Bertus Basson, all 14 chefs as well as 7 sommeliers giving their time and expertise at no charge. Without the support of main sponsor Mercedes-Benz the event could not have been held in the past three years. Swiss Air was also acknowledged for its sponsorship, bringing Chef Reto to Cape Town, and taking the winning Young Chef of the Year to Europe.
I was fortunate to spend some more time with the seven Chef of the Year Finalists last night, introducing Finalist Anand Bhana of Hartford House to a very busy Chef’s Warehouse and to Chef Liam Tomlin. We had supper at Burrata, and whilst we were at the Old Biscuit Mill, I took two groups of the Finalist Chefs into The Test Kitchen and The Pot Luck Club to show them the two restaurants owned by Chef Luke Dale-Roberts, as none of them had experienced the restaurants before. Our quick visits were kindly indulged.
In two years R4 million net has been raised through the last two Chefs who Share events, and Barbara is optimistic that another R2 million will be raised tomorrow evening, largely from the auction of the art work and experiential items. The monies will benefit Make a Difference Leadership Foundation and Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. For the Young Chef of the Year Finalists it will be a night to remember, as one of them will be announced as the 2015 Chefs who Share Young Chef of the Year during the Gala Dinner!
Disclosure: we received a Chefs who Share linen cloth, a cute mini grater, two slabs of Frey chocolate, and a Mercedes-Benz pen with our media pack.
POSTSCRIPT 11/9: Last night Jamie-Lee Saunders of Grootbos was crowned ‘Chefs who Share’ Young Chef of the Year 2015!