* This article first appeared here in ASPIRE Lifestyle
October 2021 saw the highly anticipated Grand Finale of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy Competition 2019-21, the fourth edition that began in 2019, but due to the pandemic had to be postponed by almost two years. The event was hosted in the glorious city of Milan, and I had the utmost privilege of attending the series of events leading up to the Awards Ceremony, predominantly to support the chefs from our Africa & Middle East region who were attending. The focus on the mighty three-day programme of networking and education (that included a series of workshops, forums, as well as the cook-off between the 10 Regional finalists) was magnifying in how gastronomy can lean in on local communities, sustainability, and social responsibility.
With green-and-gold South African pride, three chefs headed to Milan: Paul Prinsloo from Gåte Restaurant at Quoin Rock in Stellenbosch (mentored by Gregory Czarnecki), Marcus Gericke from Le coin Français in Franschhoek and Callan Austin of Chefs Warehouse, Tintswalo Atlantic in Cape Town.
All 10 global finalists showed off their culinary skills and presented gourmet delights to the Grand Jury – the panel made up of some of the world’s most renown and gifted international chefs: Andreas Caminada, Clare Smyth, Enrico Bartolini, Gavin Kaysen, Manu Buffara, and Mauro Colagreco. The Top 10 finalists’ dishes were judged according to three golden rules;
- Technical skills – ability to select the finest ingredients and using skills to obtain the best flavours from these.
- Creativity – showcasing originality and innovation to maintain that perfect balance between flavour and aesthetic appearance.
- Most importantly, the third golden rule was Personal Belief – communicating a clear vision reflecting their personal belief of gastronomy.
While all finalists produced plates of gastronomy wonder, it was Sweden’s Chef Jerome Ianmark Calayag who humbly won the title of S.Pellegrino Young Chef for 2019-21. Aptly named Humble Vegetables, his signature dish is “One part inspired by the street food I grew up loving in the Philippines — the carrot grilled just like ihaw-ihaw (grilled skewers) — but the dish is Nordic, with vegetables sourced from a sustainable local farmer. The leak is cooked in the old Nordic way, on open fire, while the tart is filled with röra (Swedish slaw).”
Our South African Chef Callan Austin won the S.Pellegrino Award for Social Responsibility highlighting his signature dish The Ghost Net. He explains how he came to create his dish, “I wanted to create a dish that highlighted an unknown phenomenon with regards to ocean pollution and the destructive tendency’s the commercial fishing industry has on our ocean. It was important to me that every element on the dish was sourced ethically and responsibly and spoke about a different issue pertaining to ocean pollution. Thus, the Ghost Net was born”.
The Grand Finale of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy Competition 2019-21‘aims to build an ecosystem to identify, connect and nurture the next generation of chefs, no matter where they are from, their gender or their ethnicity. With this, create a wonderful future for global young chefs to learn and grow’.
The competition remains a highlight on the gastronomy calendar, supported by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna mineral waters – and a firm nod to the local distributor Clearworld South Africa for their continuous support to an industry that needs it now more than ever.