On October 30, the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy competition held its grand final cook-off competition and two chefs representing Africa & the Middle East won in the categories of S.Pellegrino Award for Social Responsibility & Acqua Panna Award for Connection in Gastronomy.
Since its inauguration in 2015, the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition has swiftly become one of the most exciting cooking competitions on the gastronomy calendar.
Commenting on the win, national sales and marketing manager for S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna in South Africa Ania Odyniecka said: “To have two winners from our region is spectacular. It highlights that we’ve got an incredibly strong and culturally diverse region. I’m very proud of them. They did a phenomenal job.”
Callan Austin from South Africa won the S.Pellegrino Award for Social Responsibility with his dish ‘The Ghost Net’, a complex seafood dish highlighting the pollution plight of SA’s oceans.
Austin said it had been a privilege to be a part of such an internationally recognised competition.
“Being picked from a group of incredibly talented chefs with forward-thinking ideas on sustainability is a huge feather in my cap and a testament to South Africans that share the same vision. I hope to share my story back home, encouraging chefs and the public to be more socially responsible,” he said.
Elissa Abou Tasse from Lebanon won the Acqua Panna Award for Connection in Gastronomy with her dish ‘Adam’s Garden’ using almost forgotten local ingredients and cooking over fire. She could not attend the Grand Finale in person due to travel restrictions and watched the live stream at home.
Abou Tasse said she was having dinner with her family when her award was announced.
“I screamed with joy. We made so much noise that the Lebanese Red Cross came, thinking something tragic was happening. The Acqua Panna award for connection in gastronomy has been a defining moment in my career. Using my creativity on my dish led me to focus on research and development, which I’m now doing in my country at Kanz Kitchen. Being part of the competition has accelerated my career. I’m proud to be honoured. As a Lebanese woman chef working on a Levantine dish, it gives the youth of my country much-needed hope,” she said.