The finals of the National Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge (NSSCC) are quickly approaching, and the talented contestants are busy preparing to wow the judges. The NSSCC has been a nationwide search to find some of the best young, up and coming talent in the kitchen. Over the last few months, regions have been battling to find out who should best represent them—it has all come down to this.

On September 3rd, at the Grand Finals, teams of two will prepare, cook and present four portions of an entrée and four portions of a main course within 90 minutes to the esteemed panel of judges. Each entrée must contain fresh New Zealand-grown carrots as the principal component of the dish. Additionally, each main course must include Waitoa chicken breast as the principal component of the dish, at least three fresh New Zealand-grown vegetables, one of which must be a starchy vegetable, kumara, parsnip or yams.

This year, two new additions to the judging panel include Fiona Ruane, executive chef of SKYCITY’s main kitchen, and Nancye Pirini, from Novotel Auckland Airport, highlighting the panel’s diversity, and expertise. They will be joined by Gareth Stewart, from Nourish Group,  Jeremy Schmid, from the Officers Mess, Craig Lucas, chef lecturer at MIT, and Liam Fox, from Forte Greene. Mark Wylie will direct the panel as head judge; he is the national account sales manager at Southern Hospitality.

New to the panel, Ruane said, “In the past few years we have been fortunate to have some of the winners join our chef apprentice program here at SKYCITY. I feel privileged to join the esteemed judging panel and represent female chefs along with the very talented Nancye Pirini.”

“I’m excited to see the action first hand—presentation, execution and taste, the techniques—everything these young cooks are using. Future trendsetters and industry leaders may be discovered.”

The Grand Final takes place at NZMA, Carbine Road, Mount Wellington, Auckland.

The NSSCC is organised by the Culinary Arts Development Trust. It is proudly sponsored by Bidfood, Moffat, 5+ A Day, Service IQ, Southern Hospitality, Waitoa, Vegetables.co.nz and NZ Chefs.