FOUR young chefs will be flying the flag for the Western Cape, after getting to the regional finals of one of the world’s most prestigious cooking competitions, the S. Pellegrino Young Chef Awards.
Now the four will join six other competitors from Africa and the Middle East for a high-pressure cook-off to determine who will go to the grand final in Milan, Italy, in June.
Seven young chefs from South Africa made it to the top 10 of the regional finals, to be held in Cape Town on February 23.
From the Western Cape, these include Amoré Botha from the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa in Camps Bay, Angelo Scirocco from the Chefs Warehouse in the Cape Town city centre, Darren Badenhorst from Grande Provence in Franschhoek, and Katlego Sebastian Mlambo, from Rust en Vrede in Stellenbosch.
Botha, whose father was a chef, said she entered the competition thinking she had nothing to lose.
Her dish, A Tropical Plate, will be a fresh summer creation. “I used tropical fruit like pineapple, litchi, papaya. Also, I wanted to create something that people with a fussy digestive system could also enjoy, something that is gluten and lactose-free,” she told Weekend Argus this week.
Scirocco said there was never any doubt that he would become a chef.
“I guess I wanted to become a chef because my career started when I was six years old,” he said.
“My mother simply allowed me to cook for my younger sister and myself. My father was a chef and so was his, for five generations.
“However, my Portuguese grandmother taught me how to cook, not my Italian father. Only when I was older and travelled to Italy did I learn Italian cuisine and culture.”
His signature dish is Milk is Thicker than Water.
“(It is) made entirely of milk. It’s a combination of different ideas of courses that would include typical ingredients in each separate course.”
Mlambo, a sous chef from Rust en Vrede, said his mother and grandmother taught him to cook.
“My gogo would make the most delicious meals from the simplest ingredients, nothing would go to waste.”
The dish he will be cooking is Cape Coast Rock Pool.
“I wanted to create a dish that reflected a South African seaside story. The elements of my dish come from the ocean, and are all fairly easily accessible.”
Badenhorst, a chef as Grande Provence, said he entered the competition after three people forwarded him the link in one day.
His signature dish will include rabbit, a meat he said was under-utilised in local cooking.
“I experimented with this specific dish over and over to fine-tune and tweak the subtle and slightly gamey tones of rabbit, with the smoky robust notes of classically cured Parma ham, and incorporated both seasonal and imported produce to create a balanced, unique, but approachable dish.”
When the regional winner is announced next month, he or she will enjoy some mentoring from David Higgs, executive chef of the Saxon Boutique Hotel in Johannesburg, ahead of the competition final in Italy.