Take a look at these young chefs and commit their names to your memory, for these six are the brightest lights in Queensland's professional kitchens right now. Last week these young chefs battled it out in the finals of the brisbanetimes.com.au Good Food Guide Young Chef of the Year Award for 2014-15.
Applicants for the award were required to answer a series of questions and submit photographs of an original dish they had created. The six finalists were chosen by panel of their peers headed by veteran chef and owner of E'cco Bistro, Philip Johnson. The chefs had to undergo a rigorous interview and cook a dish for the judges (who refrained from scoring chefs from their own establishments). The competition, Johnson says, came down to the wire, with mere fractional points separating the winner (who will be announced at the brisbanetimes.com.au Good Food Guide Awards in July). So what were the judges looking for?
“A complete chef. Or as complete as you can be at 30 or under,” Johnson says.
“Someone who is confident in their own ability and has a vision of where they are at and where they would like to go. Bearing in mind we are realistic that this may change as food itself evolves.”
Johnson said it was refreshing to see that all six were not intent on following trends but trying to push themselves, while at the same time being mindful of the foundations of good cooking.
“More and more new techniques are being explored by young chefs. But it's still nice to see just a well roasted and rested piece of meat. Sous vide isn't the answer to everything.”
Works: Stokehouse, Brisbane
Position: Chef de Partie, Sauce section
Most memorable dish ever eaten: “Meat fruit” at Dinner by Heston. So simple but everything was on the plate for a reason. The dish looked immaculate and simple whereas the flavour was anything but.
Chef/Foodie hero/es: Sat Bains (restaurants Sat Bains, Nottingham), Phillip Howard (The Square London), Shannon Bennett (Vue de Monde, Melbourne) and Daniel Clifford (Midsummer House, Cambridge). They all have their own style and philosophies and it shows on the plate.
What dish did you present for the judges? Lamb backstrap, lamb belly, hay smoked sweetbreads, pine, zucchini, pine mushrooms.
Your philosophy on food/cooking: Keep it clean, seasonal, and let the natural taste of the ingredient speak for itself. Good quality ingredients are key. And add your style to your food.
In 5 years time I want to be ... Head chef of a small/medium restaurant in Brisbane serving quality Australian food but with my English/French twist. And hopefully giving my skills and knowledge back to the industry.
Works: Ricky's River Bar & Restaurant/Wood Fire Grill in Noosa
Position: Executive Chef
Most memorable dish ever eaten: Foie gras lobe with apple, vanilla and brioche at Est in Sydney.
Chef/Foodie hero/es: Ben Shewry (Attica, Melbourne) and Grant Achatz (Alinea, Chicago), I love the way they approach food and execute dishes.
What dish did you present for the judges? Local duck breast, rillette, parfait, candied cumquat, fresh garden peas and parsnip.
Your philosophy on food/cooking: I try to keep things as simple as possible and as close to their natural state as possible-fresh is best. Cook and execute with honesty and respect and let food speak for itself.
In 5 years time I want to be … In Queensland still, I love it here. I would also like to have attained 1 chef's hat and be running a profitable and successful restaurant with a full dining room and happy guests.
Works: Stokehouse, Brisbane
Position: Head pastry chef
Most memorable dish ever eaten: Muscovy duck, green strawberries, beer and fennel at Marque, Sydney.
Chef/Foodie hero/es: Anna Polyviou, executive pastry chef of Sydney's Shangri-La Hotel.
What dish did you present for the judges? Orange and coffee cream, Valrhona Kalingo namelaka, puffed wild rice, orange sponge.
Your philosophy on food/cooking: Picking three or less flavours that go together and making a dish out of them making sure each flavour does come out in its own way but not over powering the rest. Less is more, making sure to play with textures and different ways to present those flavours.
In 5 years time I want to be … The owner of my own little cafe or patisserie with my husband.
Works: GOMA (Queensland Gallery of Modern Art)
Position: Executive Chef
Most memorable dish ever eaten: Razor clam and parsley, horseradish and mussel juice at Noma, Copenhagen.
Chef/Foodie hero/es: Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park). His food juxtaposes new and old that speaks about our contemporary culture. He uses classical ingredients in a modern narrative.
What dish did you present for the judges? Thangool squab, blueberries, sprouts and grains.
Your philosophy on food/cooking: Influenced by the seasons and locale I develop dishes by enhancing flavours using both modern and ancient techniques whilst preserving the produce's integrity. I work with growers, producers and suppliers to source ingredients at their peak and to discover new and once forgotten ingredients that convey a story. Sustainable, organic and biodynamic where possible, I strive to minimise the environmental impact created in our practices.
In 5 years time I want to be … I still love Brisbane, so I cannot see myself anywhere else.
Works: Restaurant Two
Position: Head Chef
Most memorable dish ever eaten: A strawberry granita with fennel at Sixpenny in Sydney.
Chef/Foodie hero/es: Michel Roux Snr (The Waterside Inn, Bray; Le Gavroche, London), Russell Armstrong (Ex-Seasalt at Armstrongs), Brent Savage (Bentley Bar, Sydney), Sat Bains (Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham)
What dish did you present for the judges? Passionfruit, banana, liquorice.
Your philosophy on food/cooking: I love to provide an experience that is not only modern but sustainable and satisfying. I'm not interested in showing how I could manipulate the ingredient but to show how it can enhance and balance a dish.
In 5 years time I want to be ... Providing an approachable learning environment full of growth and empowerment for young chefs.
Position: Chef de cuisine
Most memorable dish ever eaten: Not really a dish but live sea urchins straight from the water in Coffin Bay. It gave me the best reference point to base every sea urchin dish I will have make from, to try and capture the feeling I had on that day and let others experience them the same way.
Chef/Foodie hero/es: Michel Bras (Bras Sebastien et Michel, France) not just for the food he has made but for the way he tries to respect his region, upbringing, and put emotions and memories into food.
What dish did you present for the judges? A flight of snacks - wild herb and flowers with cow's milk and pickled garlic seeds; Japanese raisins; crisp chicken with almond, sprouted seeds and cured egg yolk; pine mushrooms with wild boar lomo and steamed Murray cod brioche.
Your philosophy on food/cooking: I always want to be happy with the produce I use and the food I make, and I want my guests to feel the same joy.
In 5 years time I want to be ... Continuing to push myself to be more creative, more resourceful, more sustainable and happier. And to keep learning.
Young Chefs' Dinner
See the best and brightest next generation chefs each create an original dish at a never-to-be-repeated collaborative dinner in July as part of Good Food Month. Hosted by the iconic E'cco Bistro, the six finalists will show off their talents and take on one course each.
Details: Thursday, July 10, 6.30pm, E'cco Bistro, 100 Boundary Street, Brisbane, $125 with matched wine, 07 3831 8344.