All that army training that taught him to remain calm under pressure must have helped up-coming chef Nicholas Todd to emerge victorious as the winner of the prestigious ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef 2017 competition, held at the NZ Hospitality Championships in Auckland last Sunday.

The battle didn’t go according to plan for the young Apprentice Chef and member of the New Zealand Defence Force from Burnham Camp in Christchurch. When he arrived at the competition kitchen in Auckland and unpacked the ingredients from his kit bag, he discovered that he’d left his prize venison back in the fridge at base.

With his secret weapon jettisoned, Nicholas’s dish could have turned out to be a ration pack of hard tack. But luckily, the Auckland Food Show was in full swing next door and he could switch out his menu with a fresh lamb rump as a replacement at the last minute. No pressure.

After a ninety-minute cook-off against seven other apprentice chefs, he plated his triumphant main dish – a creation dubbed ‘lamb forest’.

The glory of winning the title is also the glamorous prize. Next year, the young soldier will travel to Australia to spend a week at the world-famous Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, worth around $3,000. He will also become a member of the NZ Chefs’ Association.

Another battle he’s setting his sights on is representing New Zealand against the best apprentice chefs on the planet at the WorldSkills competition in Abu Dhabi during October this year.