Meet the 2020 Josephine Pignolet Young Chef Award finalists

Myffy Rigby
Finalists and judges of the Good Food Guide 2019 Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year award (from left): Dan Hong, ...
Finalists and judges of the Good Food Guide 2019 Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year award (from left): Dan Hong, John Laureti, Sarah Cremona, Ben Russell, Alla Wolf-Tasker, Anna Ugartes Carral, Gerald Ong, Neil Perry, Bill Nockles and Myffy Rigby.  Photo: James Brickwood

Each year, a panel of top chefs, along with Good Food Guide editor Myffy Rigby, subject the new young hopefuls to a series of hard-hitting questions about their ambitions, hopes and dreams within the industry, where they would like to eventually cook and where they would really like to eat (weirdly this time, they all said Asador Etxebarri, in Spain's Basque country).

This year, the panel was made up of Alla Wolf-Tasker, doyenne of Victoria's Lake House; Ben Russell, group chef of Greca, Queensland; previous Josephine Pignolet winner and Merivale executive chef Dan Hong; and Neil Perry, industry legend and executive chef of the Rockpool Dining Group. That's a tough crowd for most senior chefs, let alone a group of freshies, none over 30.

Along with taking home the prestigious national title, the winner will receive prizes including $10,000 from Good Food, and help with placement at an overseas restaurant. 

The finalists (from left): Sarah Cremona, left, John Laureti, Anna Ugartes Carral, Bill Nockles and Gerald Ong.
The finalists (from left): Sarah Cremona, left, John Laureti, Anna Ugartes Carral, Bill Nockles and Gerald Ong.  Photo: James Brickwood

All five finalists will be invited to attend the 2020 Good Food Guide Awards presented by Citi and Vittoria on September 30, with the winner joining an honour roll that includes some of the best chefs this country has produced.

After the official judging, Good Food managed to pry a few fun facts out of this year's top young chefs. Find out what they're chewing below …

Sarah Cremona

Apprentice chef at the Vue Group VIC

I'm listening to… a mix of Daft Punk, Digitalism, Hermitude and Nine Inch Nails

I'm reading… Dan Barber's The Third Plate, Bee Wilson's The Way We Eat Now and Amanda Little's The Fate of Food.

I'm watching… Season three of Stranger Things.

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When I'm at home I'm cooking… fresh pasta with pine mushrooms, creme fraiche and chives and a tarte tatin. Or bolognese jaffles. Perfect soul food for winter weather.

John Laureti

Junior sous chef, Laura/Point Leo Estate VIC

I'm listening to… a lot of Elton John and The Kinks – especially in the mornings at work. They both get me into a good pre-service mood.

I'm reading… butchery cookbooks like The Craft of Italian Dry Curing Salumi by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn and The Art of the Restaurateur by Nicholas Lander

I'm watching… Chefs' Table and The Great British Menu. Other than that I watch a lot of sport.

When I'm at home I'm cooking… a lot of Asian broths and soups (it's really cold on the Mornington Peninsula). Nothing traditional, just my own little twist on the classics.

Bill Nockles

Third year apprentice, Bennelong Restaurant NSW

I'm listening to … a mix of MF Doom, Outkast, Immortal Technique, and a little Jack Johnson when I'm reading.

I'm reading … the old vintage cookbook set The Good Cook - Recipes and Techniques, a series from the '80s which has taken over my life.

I'm watching … The Wire for when I'm feeling serious and when I'm up for a laugh it's Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm.

When I'm at home I'm cooking … onion soup and parsnip veloute (I'm in winter mode).

Gerald Ong

Sous chef, Chairman and Yip ACT

I'm listening to … Is this it? by the Strokes. Always a good time.

I'm reading … Estela by Ignacio Mattos and Gabe Ulla (so inspiring and honest), and Etxebarri (primal, visceral and romantic) by Juan Pablo Cardenal and Jon Sarabia. Amazing reads for any cook.

I'm watching… Rick and Morty. Wubba Lubba Dub Dubb

When I'm at home I'm cooking… On our days off together, my wife and I always head to the farmers' market in the morning, fire up the Kamado Joe barbecue for lunch, get some mates over and crack open a few. Life is beautiful.

Anna Ugarte-Carral

Junior sous chef, Momofuku Seiobo NSW

I'm listening to … everything from Gloria Ann Taylor's Love is a Hurtin Thing on one end of the spectrum, to Big Ole Freak by Megan Thee Stallion on the other. My taste in music is a bit all over the shop. Go figure.

I'm reading … Life and Food in the Basque Country by Maria Jose Sevilla. I've also been chipping away at In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust for literally years.

I'm watching … if I have Monday nights off, I love getting stuck into a few ABC programmes: Four Corners, Media Watch and Q&A.

When I'm at home I'm cooking … I try to have people over at least once a month for dinner, and I'll cook something fun. Apart from that, mostly anchovy spaghetti.