Young chefs cook up a storm

Finalists Josh Utah Green, Shaista Anoop and Jaid Jhala.
Finalists Josh Utah Green, Shaista Anoop and Jaid Jhala.

IN a nail-biting cook-off, with a total of 54 chefs competing throughout the day, young chefs from 1 000 Hills Chef School scored two major titles in the Unilever Chef of the Year Competition for 2018 that took place in Umhlanga on September 5.

Josh Green was the winner of the Junior Chef of the Year category and first runner-up was Chef Shaista Anoop, pastry lecturer at 1 000 Hills Chef School. This is the second time that 1 000 Hills Chef School have taken first and second place in the competition.

Green said it was a surreal experience, and unexpected, but it was “the best cook of his life”.

“I almost didn’t enter, I was frustrated at the last minute with how my entry dish was not working out, but I spoke with Chef Jade (Principal at 1 000 Hills Chef School) and she encouraged me to just go for it,” he said. His calm nature under pressure in the kitchen certainly helped clinch the title.

Green’s family watched the live video stream online and said they nearly jumped a hole in the ceiling when he won. Green hopes to work internationally to gain more experience after graduating at the end of the year.

Joining Green and Anoop in the competition yesterday was Jaid Jhala, who competed against leading SA chefs in the Senior Chef of the Year category for over 25 year-old chefs.

Jhala worked in catering in her home country of Zambia before pursuing studies towards a formal internationally recognised qualification at 1 000 Hills Chef School.

The competition was tough, with experienced rivals including last year’s winner of the Junior competition and a member of the SA Culinary Olympic team. The title was taken by Juan Neethling, Executive Chef of Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel in Cape Town.

Chef Jade Benians, Executive Chef and Principal at 1 000 Hills Chef School, was pleased to note that there were two other chefs competing in various categories of the competition that graduated from 1 000 Hills Chef School.

Pastry chef Shaylan Pillay (Class of 2009) and her team-mates from The Oyster Box took the win in a new High Tea category while Shivan Govender (Class of 2011) headed up a team of four from FEDICS Caterers.

Chef Benians, herself a former winner in both Junior and Senior categories, said: “Representation from 1 000 Hills Chef School in every category of the competition is an amazing achievement, and shows that well-trained chefs build on their careers and keep on learning in this challenging industry.”

She praised the ongoing investment from Unilever, noting that the career-building platform this major event offers would not be possible without their continued support of excellence.

Remco Bol, MD of Unilever Food Solutions, noted that judges said the young chefs often give the senior chefs a run for their money, not playing it safe and having a lot of fun in the process.

The competition has a 40-year-old reputation for taking culinary careers to new heights. Unilever has increased their investment in this fantastic platform because it has a real impact on the industry.

In line with this objective, five young chefs competed in a brand new category called “Rise up”.

Chef Craig Elliot noticed that there were several entry forms from chefs that were not currently employed — a sign of the times with high unemployment a sad feature of South Africa’s economy. Chefs cooked their hearts out, with the support of senior chef mentors, for 12 months of guaranteed employment. — Supplied.

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