It’s down to the wire for the finalists in the Unilever Food Solutions Chef of the Year competition, with eight chefs in the senior category vying for the coveted title of Chef of the Year and R20 000 in prize money, and eight chefs aiming to win the Junior Chef of the Year category and R15 000 in the competition finals to be held on 14 September at the University of Johannesburg’s School of Tourism and Hospitality. The competition this year consists of five categories with total prize money of R110 000, with three prizes in each category up for grabs.
The senior and junior categories will see the inclusion of international chefs going head-to-head with some of South Africa’s best in the culinary world, competing for top honours. The senior finalists are Phil De Villers, Tsogo Sun 54 on Bath (Johannesburg); Mluleki Luthuli, Palazzo Hotel, Montecasino (Johannesburg); Jade van der Spuy, 1000 Hills Chefs School (KwaZulu-Natal); Tiaan Langenegger, Overture Restaurant (Stellenbosch); Gerald van der Walt, The Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort (Cape Town); Mohamed Mahmoud (Egypt); Paul Bussey (Arabia) and Hussain Muzzamil (Pakistan).
The junior finalists – all with less than five years’ experience and under the age of 30 – are Claire Blinkhorn-Street, Sjef (Port Shepstone); Samantha Holtman, 1000 Hills Chef School (KwaZulu-Natal); Catherine Adonis, Mount Nelson (Cape Town); Jade Roberts, Twelve Apostles (Cape Town); Melusi Twala, Lekgotla African Dining (Johannesburg); Liezl Bruce, University of Johannesburg; Kirsten Jane Howell, Tsogo Sun 54 on Bath (Johannesburg) and Alaa E-dine Mabrouk, El Kalubia (Egypt) .
Six teams of four will pit their skills against each other in the Team of Four category: one from Cape Town – Western Province Caterers; two from Durban – Capitol Caterers and Fedics; one from Johannesburg – Wits Jubilee; and two from Rustenburg - Sun City Hotel and Sun City Resort.
To enter in these three categories, participants were required to create recipes using Unilever Food Solutions products and submit their recipes for a starter, main course and dessert with accompanying photographs. The regional finals took the form of a mystery basket cook-off with entrants required to prepare a three course menu using Unilever Food Solutions products from the mystery basket. The finals will also be a mystery basket cook-off – the most taxing and adrenalin-inducing cooking competition for any chef.
Two new categories were added to the traditional three this year – Creative Canapés and Confectionary Showcase, where chefs are being judged on criteria that includes most indulgent; best innovative presentation; best use of UFS ingredients; and best representation of theme. To enter in either of these two categories, chefs were required to submit their recipes for the respective items.
Finalists in the Confectionary Showcase include:
· Wonda Grobbelaar - Fairway
· Cherry Pin - Sandton Sun
· Joanita Venter - Oyster Box
· Ugashnee Moodley - Royal Mnandi
· Lindiwe Ncala - The Palace
· Minah Tshukudi - The Palace
· Melone Erasmus - OR Tambo International
Finalists in the Creative Canapés include:
· Dion Vengatass - Mount Nelson
· Xavier Francis - Oyster Box
· Yatish Bipulprasa - Chatsmed
· Julia Mashoa - The Palace
· Lydia Kau - The Palace
· Frederico Dias - Fairway Hotel
Some of South Africa's most esteemed chefs with a wealth of experience behind them will be on hand to help judge the entrants in the bid to find the chefs and cooks worthy of the titles and prizes.
Unilever Food Solutions has been hosting this competition since the early 1970s. This competition, says Craig Elliott, Executive Head Chef of Unilever Food Solutions for South Africa, the Middle East and Pakistan, is about pushing the boundaries of creativity, imagination and skill. “It’s about uniting behind our talented chefs and going to great lengths to provide them with solutions and inspiration for use in their own kitchens every day.”
Elliot acknowledges the tremendous contribution that chefs play in our lives by sharing their talent, skills and inspiration through the passion they put into their dishes. South Africa has a wealth of world-class chefs. This competition pays tribute to them by offering them a platform from which to showcase their talent in a bid to achieving the respected title of Chef of the Year. “It has been exceptionally gratifying to Unilever Food Solutions to see the positive enthusiasm displayed by chefs when creating recipes with our range of ingredients,” he comments. “This response continuously spurs us on to greater heights in developing products that help to create great-tasting dishes as well as adding convenience to our chefs’ lives in their professional kitchens.”