Debbie Kennedy, Allan Hirsch, Joani Mitchell, Ismail Amos (centre), Havenisha Naidoo And Desmond Davies at the winner announcement Picture: Supplied
Three of the top catering schools around KwaZulu-Natal went head-to-head at Hirsch’s first Head-Chef cook off competition which took place at the Hirsch’s in Umhlanga. 

Ismail Amos and his sous chef, Havenisha Naidoo from Capsicum Culinary Studio were announced as the winners. 

These two wowed the judges with their “Funky Fungs” starter, a name they made up on the spot.  Their main was a fish dish. These dishes were created from a mystery box, ala Masterchef. 
Amos said his late grandmother inspired him to be able to create the dishes during the competition.

“My grandmother passed away two years ago. She inspired these two dishes. She really pushed me in life to achieve my goals and one of my goals was to participate and win every competition that I enter, so that was a motivational push on this competition”, he said.

Commenting on his preparedness for the showdown, he said he was as prepared as he could be, especially because they didn’t know what they would be making. “I won’t say I was unprepared, but things were more up and down but we had everything under control. I concentrated on getting time management right and the use of unusual flavours possibly gave us the edge in the closely fought competition.” 

For starters the team prepared a pan fried squid and chicken with a balsamic and ale reduction. Wild rocket and spinach waited with macadamia nuts, finished with the pan gravy.
Funky Gungs: pan fried squid and chicken with a balsamic and ale reduction. Wild rocket and spinach waited with macadamia nuts, finished with the pan gravy. Pictures: Nqobile Mbonambi

For the main meal, the team prepared a pan seared snapper, burnt onion purée with a coconut butternut purée over a German spaetzle pancake with a side of wild mushroom and bean sautéed in dill oil. 
Amos said it was a great honour to be crowned Hirsch’s head-chef 2017 as this is good for their careers and will put their names out there. 

Celebrity chef, Joani Mitchell, Desmond Davies, KZN Chairman of the South African Chefs Association for KZN and CEO of the Hirsch Group, Allan Hirsch, were the judges and they commented about the high standard of cooking and the use and balance of flavours were excellent.

“This competition has given these great young chefs an opportunity to stand out and show what they are capable of producing, and we wish them all the very best in their future careers in the industry”, Allan Hirsch said. 
Fusions Cooking School, Monique Dunn and Kyle Arnold took second place while International Hotel School’s Nonceba Dlamini and Akil Ruiters took third place.

Hirsch’s gave over R15,000 worth of vouchers to the winners and runners up and Bosch gave the winning school a Bosch food processor and the runners up hand blenders.