Sil­ver hope turns to gold

A Christchurch school emerged on top at the Na­tional Se­condary Schools Culi­nary Cham­pi­onships (NSSCC) grand fi­nal re­cently.

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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.”

AN­DRE DE BRUIN | Chair­man | Veg­eta­bles.co.nz

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