To a packed audience in the penthouse of London’s New Zealand House on Wednesday (11 April) evening, Louisa Matthews, a 20 year old young chef from Eton College in Windsor, was awarded the coveted UK-NZ Culinary Challenge Award by well-known New Zealand celebrity chef of ‘The Providores and Tapa Room’ London and founder of the awards, Peter Gordon.
Competing at a cook-off at Westminster’s Kingsway College, Louisa fought off tough competition from eight other finalists to win the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to New Zealand on a three-week trip experiencing the country’s top restaurants, visiting award-winning vineyards and suppliers, with the option of one further week to explore the country. Showcasing New Zealand venison, Manuka honey and Bramley Apples, her award winning menu comprised “perfectly seasoned and richly flavoured”1 roast seabass with aioli crab croquette, mussel stew and winter vegetables; roast loin of venison, venison tortellini and Foie Gras foam; and a steamed Manuka honey sponge, caramelised Bramley apple ice-cream and nettle beignet.
Hot on her heels, Daniel Lee from Westminster Kingsway College in London was awarded second place and congratulated on his execution of subtly smoked and delicate starter of hot-smoked Scottish lobster with shellfish emulsion, English cockles and seaweed foam. Whilst Connor Jones from the Saunton Sands Hotel in Devon took third with similar accolades for his cleverly assembled apple & salted butterscotch cannelloni with manuka honeycomb ice cream and yoghurt panna cotta. Fellow contestant Luke Orwin also received praise by the judges for his very seasonal main which included blue potato fondant, wild garlic, asparagus and Yorkshire rhubarb.
Gordon commented: “Chosen from a selection of high calibre entries, the eight finalists all did themselves proud on the day by producing some impressive menus. Dishes were very creative with a good use of secondary cuts of venison from the rib cooked on the bone through to liver and kidneys, along with other interesting ingredients such as foraged foods and pulses. In the kitchen, the amount of gadgetry was a far cry from the days of young chefs simply using a knife and pan with molecular gastronomy making an appearance in the form of pea jellies through to foams.
“The quality of the entries is a fantastic indication of how highly respected the competition is amongst tutors and employers around the UK in regards to the advancement of their junior staff and students.”
David Mulcahy, Vice President of The Craft Guild of Chefs added: “The Craft Guild of Chefs has been involved in running the UK-NZ Culinary Challenge from its inception and is delighted to support such a worthwhile competition. Young chefs play such an important part in shaping the future of our industry and it is encouraging to see such talent and enthusiasm from all the contestants. The finalists were all excellent on the day and demonstrated not only a good understanding of the ingredients but of modern culinary techniques. All eight finalists should be very proud of their work today, which was of extremely high level. Judges took a considerable time to deliberate on the eventual winners, a testament to the high calibre of this year’s contestants. I have no doubt that our young winner will be a great ambassador for the competition when she travels to New Zealand to take up this once in a lifetime prize.”
The other finalists comprised:
Laura Daniels, Manchester College
Trung Nguyen, Westminster Kingsway College
Luke Orwin, Pan Haggerty Restaurant, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Joshua Saunders, Worcester College of Technology
Thomas Sturrock, Kopapa Restaurant, London
Judges included Peter Gordon, Chef/Proprietor, The Providores and Tapa Room; David Mulcahy, Culinary Director Sodexo UK and Ireland; Anna Hansen, Chef/Proprietor, The Modern Pantry; Sophie Wright, previous winner and celebrity chef; and Cristian Hossack, Head Chef, The Providores and Tapa Room Restaurant.
Peter Gordon, the inspiration behind this award, also urged young contenders thinking of entering:
“The UK-NZ Culinary Challenge is a fantastic opportunity for a young chef to get a first hand taste of New Zealand’s unique cuisine, beautiful countryside and friendly people. Previous winners can certainly vouch for this enriching and rewarding experience. You’d be mad not to enter.”
The UK-NZ Culinary Challenge is generously sponsored by Air New Zealand, Dudson, Bleeding Heart Restaurant, Trinity Hill Wines, Providores & Tapa Room, New Zealand Venison, New Zealand Society, Bramley Apples, Comvita and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise.