Mark Moriarty has a magic trick up his sleeve in the shape of a celeriac. Two years ago the Irish chef, then 25, won the inaugural San Pellegrino Young Chef competition with a complex, clever dish that captured the yeasty, hoppy flavours of Guinness without using a drop.
His winning dish, two years in development and judged by a who's who of international chefs, gave him an introduction to some of the world's best kitchens and dining rooms, and cooking events from London to Singapore, and Moscow to Melbourne, before he returned to Milan last October to hand over the title to the 2016 winner, Mitch Lienhard.
Competition commitments over, Moriarty has returned to Australia for a year of working and eating. "Of all the places I was last year, Melbourne was definitely the one city I felt I could learn the most in a year."
Currently rattling pans at Melbourne's Cutler & Co, he'll return to Ireland early next year to begin developing a place of his own, where the celeriac dish is destined for another go-around.
The year that followed his competition win was a whirlwind, but looking back, Moriarty says he now appreciates the doors it opened for him.
"It's something I'd suggest to anyone under 30 in any way interested in food. It's not about winning. Even if you get to the semi-finals you get to experience the buzz."
Entries for the 2017 competition, open to young professional chefs aged 30 or under, close on April 30. There's a regional cook-off in September, and the Australian regional winner will fly to Milan in June 2018 for the final, competing against chefs from 21 regions.
Competition details at sanpellegrino.com.