Silver hope turns to gold
A Christchurch school emerged on top at the National Secondary Schools Culinary Championships (NSSCC) grand final recently.
The knives were out … as were the smoking machines, sous vide ovens, vacuum sealers and a vast array of pots, pans, jugs and plates. Sixteen of the most talented hospitality students in New Zealand recently took on the ultimate food battle in South Auckland – the chance to win the coveted title of the NSSCC 2018, and to win one of two scholarships with City & Guilds.
Maggie Carroll and Lisa Khorozova of Burnside High School in Christchurch were declared the winners of the competition with their dishes:
Entrée: Tomato tart with fresh tomato and basil salad, manuka smoke tomato foam and goats cheese, accompanied by a rich tomato sauce.
Main: Waitoa chicken breast with broad bean farce on truffle potato purée with petite crumbed sausage with Brussels sprouts, carrots, peas, tarragon cream sauce and microgreens. “We really didn’t think we’d win – we had to rush the plating at the end,” said Liza.
“We hoped for a silver medal, but to win is amazing.” Maggie agreed saying their dish’s flavours worked well together.
“And we get on as a team – even when we were stressed, we weren’t stressed at each other. Our teacher told us to be fast Ferraris – and it obviously worked.”
The winners were chosen by a panel of six judges: Mark Wylie, head judge and national account sales manager, Southern Hospitality, Ben Bayly, co-owner/chef, The Grounds, Henderson, Gareth Stewart, executive chef, Nourish Group, Jeremy Schmidt, owner/chef, The Officers Mess, Craig Lucas, chef lecturer, Manukau Institute of Technology(MIT) and Liam Fox, owner/chef, Forte Greene.
Teams were judged on criteria which included taste, presentation, innovation, creativity, hygiene and wastage (teams lose marks for unnecessary food or packaging waste). Food consultant Israel Evers was the MC for the event.
Now in its sixth year, the NSSCC, which is the largest secondary school culinary competition in the country, was held at a dinner at MIT in Otara, Auckland. Finalists were selected from regional heats in Northland/North Auckland, South Auckland, Waikato, Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Wellington, Canterbury/Nelson/Marlborough and Otago/Southland.
In the final students had 90 minutes to prepare, cook and present four individually-plated portions each of an entrée and a main course. The entrée had to contain fresh New Zealandgrown tomatoes as the principal component of the dish, the main course had to consist of a portion of Waitoa free range chicken breast, skin on and bone in, and include three fresh New Zealand-grown vegetables, one of which had to be a potato. “Each year we continue to be impressed with the standard and expertise of the skills shown by the students,” said Wylie.
“It’s a reflection of both the students’ efforts and that of their tutors, who bring a great game to the table every year. This year we saw a lot of skills that mirror what is happening at the moment in the industry – it’s impressive to see how current the students’ skills are.”
He said picking a winner wasn’t easy. “The technical skills, like the butchering and cooking techniques, have been outstanding – two of the floor judges, Ben Bayly and Jeremy Schmidt, said that they would happily give any of the students competing today a job in their kitchens. To get an accolade like that from chefs of their calibre is impressive – all the finalists should be very proud.” Isabella Viakai, from Manurewa High School, and Sam Ashmore, from Te Awamutu College, were also awarded scholarships to study at any City & Guilds-approved tertiary education site.
Glenn Fulcher, trustee of the Culinary Arts Development Trust, an organisation which was formed to manage culinary competitions like the NSSCC, said the continuing rise in skill level through the years shows how much potential there is for young people to succeed in the hospitality industry in New Zealand.
“All our main regions were covered this year, which shows the level of skill and creativity we are seeing in schools across the country,” he said.
“The competition gives students from each region a taste of real work pressure and exposure to industry heavyweights, as well as experience working as a team to develop menus, plate dishes and work in tune with each other. Days like this are there so the judges can select the best students on the day, see if they can find the spark in the students’ eyes, and can ask themselves the ultimate question: Would I hire this person to work in my restaurant? It’s an incredible opportunity for them.”
“Our teacher told us to be fast Ferraris – and it obviously worked.”