November 17, 2022

YOUNG CHEFS PREPARE FOR THE S.PELLEGRINO YOUNG CHEF ACADEMY REGIONAL COMPETITION


The S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy has seen many of its alumni rise to stardom over the years of this prestigious international competition. The carefully crafted combination of mentorship, connection to the global community, exposure to internationally acclaimed chefs and a philosophy of sustainability and personal beliefs, is about so much more than competing – it gives each chef a chance to grow, develop and reach for their very best. The latest edition sees 15 young chefs from Africa, the Middle East & South Asia region who will embrace the challenge, vying for recognition and a prestigious place in the global final.

The competition’s largest region geographically encompasses an extremely diverse range of culinary cultures: India, the Middle East, and South Africa and includes chefs hailing from even further afield, so expect a fascinating array of dishes and influences at the regional event, which will take place in Cape Town in January 2023.

MEET THE REGIONAL FINALISTS

FROM SOUTH AFRICA

Ellah Maepa is the executive chef and manager at The Backyard Café in Cape Town.

Mentor: Lapo Magni

Dish: Greenage – vegan seitan, rooibos infused bao buns, pickled cucumber, gooseberries, kiwi

Ellah’s dish is inspired by the power of flavour in simplicity, and her love for fusion. “As a chef, you always feel like you can do better. I find comfort in how people react to my dishes, and so with this dish, I embrace the produce the earth gives us. I want each component to be felt with every bite for what it is!”

Tiaan Snyman is a junior sous chef at Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa in Johannesburg.

Mentor: Matthew Foxon

Dish: Pauline’s Lamb – Karoo lamb seared, braised, cured, and smoked with port jus and carrots

Tiaan’s dish is a tribute to his grandmother and how she inspired him to pursue cooking professionally. “Growing up, a lamb was, and still is, an expensive commodity, and always went hand in hand with a special occasion in my home. The preparation of the lamb dish was tasked to my grandmother who would always take great care and never leave anything to waste.”

Bianca Strydom is a development chef for Woolworths and previously worked at The Restaurant at Waterkloof as well as La Colombe.

Mentor: Grégory Czarnecki

Dish: Sunny side up – vichyssoise purée and egg yolk filled ravioli, onion velouté, cured egg yolk

Bianca wanted to create a dish that can live on a fine dining menu, made with “affordable, attainable, everyday ingredients that she grew up eating at least once a week. “It is important to remember that knowledge, skill, and technique count for so much. A roast potato, a soft-boiled egg and a plate of pasta have so much potential if you know how to work with basic ingredients.”

Aengus Moloney will be relocating to Ireland in late November to work as a chef at Tuscany Bistro, previously based at Gåte at Quoin Rock near Stellenbosch. 

Mentor: Grégory Czarnecki

Dish: Bobotie? Today and Tomorrow – bobotie braised beef cheek, brûléed bay custard and yellow rice steam bun

Aengus’ recipe comes from childhood memories of his mum’s adaptation of the recipe when he and his brother refused to eat raisins. “Bobotie is a traditional South African dish and everyone has their version of it. Mine is rooted in the dish my mother made us that we’d have for dinner one night and on a sandwich for lunch the next day. I’ve found my interpretation while holding true to that core memory.”

Zanté Neethling recently moved to Nest restaurant in Knysna, working in the role of head chef, previously from Hazendal Wine Estate.

Mentor: Michélle Theron

Dish: Strandveld Ecosystem – smoked mussel flan, pickled kob, sweet potato tart, buchu sauce, golden sage tea

Zanté embraces indigenous South African ingredients growing in their natural habitat along the Southern African coastline. “We live in a land of forgotten foods. The dish uses a variety of indigenous medicinal fynbos plants which are pure and nutritious. I am using these ingredients in a modern way to showcase an edible ecosystem and express South African terroir.”

Tiisetso Matela is head chef at Rust en Vrede in Stellenbosch

Mentor: Fabio Daniel

Dish: Seared kudu and sorghum – kudu, fermented and burned sorghum, sago jus, butternut, bean puree

Tiisetso combines elements and ingredients that convey traditional cultures within South Africa, he says, “Sorghum is mainly used in African cultures as a staple ingredient for porridge and traditional beer fermentation.  Kudu reflects our Afrikaans farm heritage, kudu is one of the best meats to braai (barbecue) on either spit or direct coals.”

FROM INDIA

Deepak Jakhar is the executive sous chef at Titlie Culinary Bar overlooking Vagator Beach, Goa.

Mentor: Tarun Sibal

Dish: Nostalgia – whey-cooked pearl millet, vegetables, raab, salt-baked potato and tomato relish

Deepak chooses a power-packed vegetarian ingredient full of nutrients as the focus of his dish. “In the green belt of India, we have an abundance of this grain, bajra (pearl millet). This is very nostalgic to me, whenever I used to have this I got lost in it, just as a child does with cotton candy. This is the perfect option for a vegetarian to get all the nutrients they need.”

Mythrayie Iyer is head chef at Farmlore sustainable fine dining restaurant near Bengaluru, Karnataka

Mentor: Johnson Ebenezer

Dish: Barter – Evolution of Indian Cooking through the age of exploration – lobster, feni jelly, aubergine stuffed ridge gourd

Mythrayie’s dish explores the history of Indian cuisine and how it evolved over the centuries from hunting and gathering to the ingredients grown in different terroirs across the Indian subcontinent. “Ingredients were bartered from all over the country,” she says. “New world ingredients were introduced in the 15th century with Vasco da Gama. These ingredients are now staples in the Indian cuisine we know today.”

FROM UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Simone Pino is a sous chef at The Arts Club Dubai        

Mentor: Alessandro Stefani

Dish: Lamb, Pea Tart, Beetroot and Caviar

Simone’s signature dish is inspired by memories of picking peas with his grandparents as a child and eating them raw from the plant. “The taste was amazing. I wanted to combine this spring flavour with the top-quality lamb which I appreciated during my work experience in London. Spring peas combined with mint to give you a flavour of freshness, and beetroot and caviar add complexity and a “Wow” factor.”

Aurélien Durand is chef de cuisine at Ossiano Restaurant at Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai

Mentor: Grégoire Berger

Dish: Life starts at the end of your comfort zone – Patagonian toothfish, sea lettuce panna cotta, jellyfish salad

The name of Aurelien’s dish comes from his personal experience, of leaving his comfort zone in France to travel through Africa and the Middle East. “I have selected unusual and sustainably sourced products that will give my guests a unique experience. As I always lived nearby the sea, I choose to build my identity exclusively around seafood. Scarcity and mystery are in my opinion the new luxury, but with respect for ethical processes and the environment.”

Mirsat Yilmaz is a sous chef at Atlantis Hotel, The Palm, Dubai

Mentor: Steven Fair

Dish: Lamb ribs, clay pot white beans , Aleppo pepper lamb sauce,  zaatar, onion,   carrot

Mirsat’s dish is inspired by the multicultural city that he experienced on moving to the city of Istanbul from his hometown as a 16-year-old intern. “When I first walked the streets of Taksim I experienced the diversity of people and ethnicity, food and culture. My dish encompasses the Turkish cuisine’s traditional richness of taste, local spices with local produce as well as modifying them in a modern way.”

FROM QATAR

Luis ‘Angel Huamani’ Huerta is chef de cuisine at the contemporary Peruvian restaurant, La Mar Doha by Gastón Acurio.

Mentor: Rubén Escudero

Dish: From my Peruvian lands – beef, melcocha sauce, quinoa, Peruvian chulpi

Luis’ dish is inspired by each country where he has travelled and worked throughout his cooking career, and the cultures and people he’s come across. “As chefs, our travels fill us with experience to create new dishes. In this dish, I want to show the mixture of techniques and styles I’ve experienced combined with my Peruvian origin.” 

FROM BAHRAIN

Muhammad ‘Afif Adnanta’ is a junior sous chef at Four Seasons Hotel, Bahrain Bay

Mentor: Meidy Zuhri

Dish: The Reflection of Nature – Firefly squid, coconut milk, butternut, rice papillote

Afif’s dish is inspired by the foods of his Indonesian roots and his culinary journey as a chef. “I am here today with a spirit of regeneration for the future, and a passion for food. By bringing out traditional ingredients, I hope people in the world and in my country will honour and value local produce, evolving and protecting Indonesian cuisine for future generations.”

FROM EGYPT

Kareem Atef is head of Research and Development for TLT Concepts (The Lemontree)

Mentor: Mina B. Rofaeil

Dish: Egyptian Delight – roast lamb loin, potato roulade, bessara tartlet, okra stew, sweet potato purée

Kareem’s dish takes some of the oldest recipes like Egyptian bessara, dukkah and taro and presents them in a modern way with beautiful twists and techniques. “It’s Egypt on a plate, with memories of eating bessara as a child, and modern touches in the taro sheets, sous vide lamb and dukkah, and great textures.”

Shehab Medhat is the chef de cuisine at Anchor Bistro in Giza.

Mentor: Ali Khouzami

Dish: Sangari fish – sea bass, sangari stuffing, smoked eggplant, tomato salad tart

Shehab is inspired by a traditional Egyptian dish called sangari fish. “Without dreams we reach nothing. Without love, we feel nothing. To reach for your dreams, you need determination, discipline and self-confidence to make your dreams come true. I believe that culinary work is art and love.”

From among these fifteen chefs, the overall regional winner as chosen by the local jury will cook again at the Grand Finale in Milan in 2023 competing for the title of S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy winner. Furthermore, three chefs will also have the opportunity of proceeding in the following categories – the S.Pellegrino Award for Social Responsibility; Acqua Panna Award for Connection in Gastronomy; and the Fine Dining Lovers Food for Thought Award.

Sanpellegrino wishes all these young chefs the very best in their preparation for the regional leg next year.