In a huge coup for the local hospitality industry, a young Stellenbosch chef is one of seven South Africans who have been chosen for the next round of judging in the global S. Pellegrino Young Chef 2020 Edition.
Logan Leisse – who studied at the Private Hotel School in Stellenbosch – did her internship under Executive Chef Michael Deg at Cavalli Estate and was immediately offered full term employment at the fine dining establishment once she graduated. Deg will continue to serve as her mentor during the Young Chef competition.
Leisse was one of 135 candidates selected to go on to the next round of judging. Representing 50 countries, the candidates were chosen from more than 2 400 applicants by culinary experts at ALMA, the world’s leading international, educational and training centre for Italian cuisine. Each applicant presented a signature dish to be evaluated and was judged on three categories: technical skills, creativity and a personal belief in the transformative power of gastronomy as a device for positive change in society.
Leisse’s signature dish was a sea bass ceviche. “I was incredibly excited when I learnt that I had moved to the next round of the competition. The way forward remains the same which is to learn and gain as much experience as possible. This competition will hopefully open up more opportunities and allow me to network with some amazing people. My mentor Chef Michael has truly inspired me – I am grateful for the effort, time and patience he takes to teach me and push me to be the best chef I can be. The Private Hotel School of Stellenbosch ignited my food passion and helped create the foundation for my career. They have both been instrumental in my culinary journey”, she says.
Each regional finalist will now participate along with the guidance of their chosen mentor chefs, in a total of 12 regional finals organised around the world. The contestants’ signature dishes will again be judged on the golden rules, and the individual winners from each region will move on to the international Grand Finale in Milan, where a top jury will crown the best young chef in the world.
Recently Chef Deg was awarded the “Mentor of the Year” floating trophy for his extraordinary support and mentoring of Private Hotel School students, including Leisse, during the past year. “We are extremely proud of Logan and what she has achieved. We wish her well in the competition going ahead. We also thank all the support we get from industry professionals who pass on their knowledge and skills. Michael has been a wonderful mentor to our students,” says Private Hotel School principal, Susina Jooste.
From August 2019 to December 2019, the candidates will compete in 12 regional challenges, each judged by its own panel of leading independent chefs. These judges will then select the regional winners of the S. Pellegrino Young Chef Award, the Fine Dining Lovers Food for Thoughts Award, the S. Pellegrino Award for Social Responsibility and the Acqua Panna Award for Connection in Gastronomy.
By the end of December 2019, whichever of these Young Chefs become official finalists, will then move on to the Grand Finale to be held in June 2020. Throughout the months of preparation for the competition, each finalist will be accompanied by their Mentor Chefs, who will provide them with guidance on how to improve their signature dishes and support them in their preparation for the international finals.