Carpenter-turned-chef shines at food show
As a budding professional chef, Danny Poulter can’t appear on television’s Masterchef, but he experienced the pressure of cooking in front of an audience at the recent Wellington Food Show.
The 22-year-old Whitireia Community Polytechnic cooking student competed in a live cookery competition at the food show at Westpac Stadium.
The 60 competitors had an hour to cook and plate up their dishes, which were presented to judges for scoring.
‘‘I was a bit nervous beforehand, but then I just got on with it,’’ Mr Poulter said.
This cool attitude paid off, as he walked away with awards for both his dishes, gaining a silver for his mushroom soup and bronze for his squid ink tortellini.
The pasta prize was particularly satisfying, he said, since he was competing in an open category against professional chefs.
He never expected to become a cook, having trained for three years as a carpenter in his native Southampton, England.
However, as the recession hit he could not find a job, and decided to shift to New Zealand and enrol on a professional cookery course.
Growing up, he had often made dinner while his nurse mum and policeman dad worked late, but he was soon to learn how different home cooking was to professional cheffing. ‘‘I’d never used a proper knife before,’’ he said. ‘‘I’d never heard of a roux.’’ Even the vocabulary used in professional cookery was new to him, since kitchen staff use French to describe cuts of meat and types of fish.
While he might not qualify for Masterchef, Mr Poulter’s training has set him up as an ideal contestant on another programme, Ready Steady Cook.
Just as on that show, students on the course are given a ‘‘magic box’’ of mystery ingredients, which they have to improvise a dish with.
But for now, Mr Poulter is not aiming at a television career – he hopes to find work as a sous chef at a restaurant in Wellington.
Sharp skills: Award-winning student chef Danny Poulter trained as a carpenter in England, but swapped a saw for a kitchen knife when he moved to Paraparaumu.