In a surprise announcement, not only one but four finalists in the Africa and Middle East region of the S. Pellegrino Young Chef Regional Semi-Final held in Cape Town on Monday, will be sent to Milan for the Grand Finale in May next year. But only one of the four young chefs will compete for the Global title of S. Pellegrino Young Chef 2020, being Chef Paul Thinus Prinsloo of The Restaurant at Waterkloof.
Chef Paul’s dish was called Bouillabaisse 2.0, described in the media release as ‘a contemporary interpretation of a classic based on the traditional Provençal fish stew originating from France’. The South African winning young chef is Chef de Partie at The Restaurant at Waterkloof. He said about his win: ‘I’m really excited to be competing in the Finale in Milan next year. There were a few mistakes on my part under the pressure today but I am always striving for perfection. I will be ready when I go up against the top Chefs in Milan’. The criteria for receiving this Award were the following: unrivalled technical skills, genuine creativity and an exceptional, strong personal belief about gastronomy.
I spoke to Chef Paul this afternoon, and he was so humble in expressing his gratitude to his competition mentor and boss Chef Gregory Czarnecki, for whom he has worked for four years. The beautiful curl plate was custom-made for The Restaurant at Waterkloof in Spain. Two years ago Chef Paul participated in the Young Chef regional awards as well, and made the Top 10 list. He explained his dish as follows:
‘Good afternoon Chris.
A total of 2400 young chefs from all over the world entered the competition, ‘all wanting to take part in this globally renowned competition to find the world’s best young chef, with the level of talent as impressive as ever’.
For the first time S.Pellegrino added three new Awards in the regional finals, the winners of which will also travel to Milan next year, to afford them an exciting networking opportunity. The new awards were motivated as follows: ‘To reflect S.Pellegrino’s belief in, and support of, the transformative power of gastronomy and it’s (sic) impact beyond the kitchen, the following three awards have been introduced to the competition to compliment (sic) the existing S.Pellegrino Young Chef award’. Two of the three additional Award winners are from South Africa:
Acqua Panna Award for Connection in Gastronomy – voted for by the Regional Mentors, the winner of this award produced a dish that represents diversity and recognises the beauty of different cultures coming together to create something fresh and exciting. Elissa Abou Tasse from Beirut took the award for her dish, Adam’s Garden.
Fine Dining Lovers Community Award – voted for by the online Fine Dining Lovers community, this award is for the young chef who best represents their personal belief through their dish. Marcus Gericke from Qunu Restaurant in Johannesburg took this award for his dish, Remembrance (Quail Consommé).
S.Pellegrino Award for Social Responsibility – voted for by Food Made Good, the internationally recognized voice on sustainability in food, this dish represents the principle that food is best when it is the result of sustainable practices. Callan Austin from Le coin Français, Cape Town took this award for his dish, The Ghost Net.
I called Chef Callan, asking him for further information about his dish, having heard about the important sustainability message it communicates. I got goosebumps reading it when he sent it to me, it touching my ocean protection nerve, cleaning up in Camps Bay daily to prevent as much litter as possible from entering the Atlantic Ocean in my suburb. Bravo Chef Callan. What a surprise to hear from Chef Callan that he started studying Engineering, cooking with Chef Darren Badenhorst at Le Coin Français occasionally. After a year he gave up on his studies to focus on his passion of cooking, joining the restaurant team. This ocean protection Sustainability message is so important, and the execution of it for the competition so creative, that it should have won the regional Africa/Middle East Finals, in my opinion. This was the rationale for the dish which Chef Callan sent to me:
‘I entered this competition because the chefs of today have a gained a massive power of influence on the general public. The profession has become incredibly romanticised and there is now an opportunity and a responsibility to speak about important global issues and tell stories through our art, food.
Most people that have asked me about my dish The Ghost Net ask what it is all about and what a Ghost Net actually is, and in response it is one of many overlooked and misunderstood unsustainable fishing practices that cause destruction to our oceans. A Ghost Net refers to the phenomenon of an old trawlers net that is too damaged for commercial use anymore so it is cut loose from the boat and left to drift around with the oceans currents continuing to entangle, trap and suffocate sea life, never to biodegrade because of the materials used to make up the net. It is truly horrific.
My dish is full of meaning, with nearly every element making a link to sustainability, local and foraged ingredients, and the ocean itself.
The kob ceviche done in two ways is farmed and native to South Africa. The one style of ceviche is rubbed with chokka ink to create a black ring around the fish when sliced and is a link to oil pollution and how it is literally smothering our fish and ocean. A thin layer of gold dust coats the chokka ink kob and speaks about how these massive oil companies are making profit off the destruction of our oceans.
Octopus fishing has recently stirred up some controversy in the Cape as the two methods used to catch the species is either the pot method (which has been infamous for entangling whales in the thick rope that leads to buoys) and the second method is as bycatch from (you guessed it) trawling nets. On the SASSI list octopus is listed as green-orange which without further research chefs could be lead to believe that it is kind of sustainable when in fact there are underlying issues with cultivating these animals. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and catch my own octopus in the most sustainable and traditional method there is by going to the rocky coastline and catching them in rock pools.
The tuille in my dish physically looks like coral and is a reminder that pollution affects every aspect of the ocean, coral being one of the most affected pollutants and it is also one of the most important creatures in maintaining the health of the ocean.
The ghost net itself is made from spiralised kohlrabi and on the dish it visually ‘traps’ other elements on the dish just as a ghost net would in the ocean.
Deep fried sardine skeletons add texture and are a visual representation of death.
Other elements on the dish simply pay homage to local ingredients, such as buchu, naartjie, foraged wood sorrel, foraged crispy seaweed (probably the highlight of the development of the dish was discovering this ingredient and its possibilities) and local Franschhoek smoking chips used to smoke the kob.
Then the sensory element of my dish is created by dropping dry ice into hot sea water I collected to produce and eerie mist or ghost that covers the majority of the dish when poured over. This very important element speaks about the main issue of sustainability, education. As I mentioned earlier, most people don’t even know what a ghost net is which poses the question; what other unsustainable crimes are we committing without even knowing?
Chefs need to use their power to educate people and other chefs about important messages we can convey through our food’.
The ten Africa and Middle East regional finalists and their mentor chefs, of which seven are from our country, were :
Marcus Gericke, mentor: Candice Philip (South Africa) – from Qunu at The Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg
Logan Leisse, mentor: Micheal Deg (South Africa) – from Cavalli in Stellenbosch
Callan Austin, mentor: Darren Badenhorst (South Africa) – from Le Coin Français in Franschhoek
Aytekin Yamaç, mentor: Maximilian J.W Thomae (Turkey)
Kayla-Ann Osborn, mentor: Constantijn Hahndiek (South Africa) – from Chef’s Table in Durban
Paul Thinus Prinsloo, mentor: Gregory Czarnecki (South Africa) – from The Restaurant at Waterkloof
Meshen Pillay, mentor: Aviv Liebenberg (South Africa) – from Reuben’s at The Capital Moloko
Daniel Payne, mentor: Olivier Barré (South Africa) – from View Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel in Johannesburg
Elissa Abou Tasse, mentor: Tony Ziade (Lebanon)
Martim Moreau Maita, mentor: Ivan Musoni (United Arab Emirates)
Grégoire Berger (United Arab Emirates)
Chef Grégoire Berger was winner of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016, Middle East and Africa Region, accompanied by mentor chef Chantel Dartnall. Originally from Brittany, France, his culinary training has taken him as far as Florida, Morocco and Paris, and is currently the head chef at Ossiano, at Dubai’s Atlantis, The Palm.
Maksut Aşkar (Turkey)
Chef owner of Neolokal, Istanbul, Maksut Askar is a proponent of the Turkish, Anatolian cuisine, with a passion for the rediscovery of the local traditions. In 2014 he was Time Out Istanbul’s “Chef of the Year.” Chef Askar has taken an active role in industry talks to discuss his ideas on zero waste, focus on small-scale producers and the importance of preserving culinary traditions.
Michélle Theron (South Africa)
Chef Michelle Theron is the head chef at Avant-Garde Restaurant, at Hazendal Wine Estate in Stellenbosch where she presents a Russian-inspired dishes using South African ingredients. Previously Executive Chef at Pierneef à La Motte in Franschhoek, specialising in traditional South African cuisine. The chef cut her teeth at various Michelin star restaurants in Holland, prior to returning to South Africa.
Myriam Ettahri (Morocco)
After a successful career in business, Myriam Ettahri studied at Le Cordon Bleu, then went around the world to work in various acclaimed kitchens including the Michelin starred team lead by Pierre Gagnaire. She has a strong TV presence, including appearances on Masterchef France, her own show “Mama Chef”, and Masterchef Morocco. Ettahri works alongside many brands and companies as consultant and food expert.
Youssef Akiki (Lebanon)
Chef of Burgundy in Beirut, Youssef Akiki trained under culinary greats Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon and Nicolas Le Bec. He has hosted his own cookery show on MTV. His cooking style is French, but takes from various food cultures and presents dishes that are beautiful, precise and playful.
The media statement concludes with the rationale for the top International sparkling water brand supporting this global Young Chef competition: ‘S.Pellegrino Young Chef nurtures the future of gastronomy, by nesting, discovering and promoting the next generation of culinary talent. S.Pellegrino Young Chef facilitates young talent from around the globe to access to the gastronomic community, enabling and encouraging them to demonstrate their personal belief in the transformative power of gastronomy through their technical skills and creativity. The winner of S.Pellegrino Young Chef will become a positive force for change’.
In a media release about Young Chef perfection, it is a shame that there are two glaring imperfections!
S. Pellegrino Young Chef. www.SanPellegrino.com Facebook: San Pellegrino Twitter: @SanPellegrino Instagram: @sanpellegrino_official
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein