Monto mae­stro one of Qld best

Central and North Burnett Times - - ADVERTISIN­G FEATURE LOCAL FLAVOURS -

THE head chef at Monto’s Grand Ho­tel, Ron Gabriel, is not the kind of chef you would typ­i­cally ex­pect to find in the kitchen of an out­back pub.

The 33-year-old grew up in the town of Calumbit in the Philip­pines, two hours north-west of Manila, and has more than a decade of ex­pe­ri­ence in kitchens around the world.

His work has taken him to all seven con­ti­nents.

Such is his rep­u­ta­tion that he was in­vited to com­pete in the 2018 Queens­land Chef of the Year com­pe­ti­tion.

Last week­end, Gabriel went head to head with the state’s finest at the an­nual MasterChef-style tour­na­ment in Bris­bane.

Hav­ing spent time in the high-pres­sure, fast paced en­vi­ron­ment of kitchens in Manila’s ex­clu­sive ho­tels, he said he was still taken aback by the stress and scru­tiny of the com­pe­ti­tion.

“I was re­ally priv­i­leged to be a part of it,” Gabriel said.

“It was hard not to be in­tim­i­dated with spec­ta­tors watch­ing and the judges over your shoul­der.

“I thought I would be more ner­vous but it went re­ally well.”

From the mystery box of in­gre­di­ents, Gabriel cre­ated pork adobo, a tra­di­tional Filipino dish pre­pared with vine­gar, soy sauce and sugar – a del­i­cate bal­ance of sweet­ness and acid­ity – com­ple­mented by a pork belly and vegetable tem­pura en­trée.

The judges were im­pressed when he plated his dishes with 10 min­utes to spare, but only four of the 24 con­tes­tants could make it through to the fi­nal.

Judges ag­o­nised over their de­ci­sion, tak­ing longer to score the meals than the chefs had taken to cook them, be­fore giv­ing dishes a score out of 100.

Gabriel missed out when Bris­bane sous chef Mar­cus Hil­lier’s dish pipped his adobo by a sin­gle point.

Hil­lier, from Fac­tory 51 in Coopa­roo, went on to win the fi­nal and earn the ti­tle of top chef in Queens­land.

While dis­ap­pointed at fall­ing short af­ter com­ing so close, Gabriel said it was a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence and he was proud of they way he per­formed un­der pres­sure.

“It was tougher than I thought,” he said.

“All the other chefs were very good and much more com­pet­i­tive than I was ex­pect­ing.

“In the end I think tech­ni­cal is­sues let me down.

“Lit­tle things like in­gre­di­ent prepa­ra­tion, sta­tion clean­li­ness and wastage – I only used half my pork belly.

“At first I was a bit de­flated, the judges spent a lot of time tast­ing my dishes.

“But the ex­pe­ri­ence was awe­some and there is al­ways next year.”

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

EXPERT: At­ten­tion to de­tail is key for Ron Gabriel when he’s in the kitchen.

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