Tom Hitchcock from The Spirit House in Yandina on the Sunshine Coast has been named the Australian Professional Chef of the Year after a tough final series held in Melbourne last week. He walked away with the prestigious title, cash and prizes from major sponsors Unox, Anchor Food Professionals and Bidfood.
“I cannot believe that I have hit this goal of mine. I have been working towards becoming one of Australia's best chefs since I was an apprentice. It still doesn't feel real. I know this is another step closer to my true goal, but just wow.” said Tom.
“The competition was tough but I have been here before and that really drove me to perform at my peak. I loved that I was competing against last year's finalists and the winner from 2018. It was super exciting and to be honest, I was nervous about just getting through the heats.”
Head Judge John McFadden says Tom had an amazing performance across every round.
“Tom lifted throughout each cook-off, maintaining an extremely high level of consistency and techniques across each criteria. Paired with great flavours and presentation it was a winner,” said McFadden.
“The benchmark for Chef of the Year has certainly been raised to an extremely high level. It is amazing to see the calibre of chefs entering this competition and the competition to be just be selected.“
The Grand Final was almost a replay of the last event in Sydney with Dylan Williams from Moke Dining in Flinders; Richmond Rodrigues from Muse Kitchen in the Hunter Valley and Tom from Queensland all making the cut for the second time. Joining them was previous winner Jack Lee from Nook Dining in Melbourne.
Each chef had to cook two dishes from a mystery box of ingredients in one hour - in front of a panel of expert judges and a huge crowd of cheering onlookers. For the first time, the mystery box included plant-based as well as traditional proteins. “This was a real pressure test,” said McFadden.
“The mystery box was challenging and all four chefs performed phenomenally well.”
The Australian Professional Chef of the Year competition is one of the most rewarding in the country, with chefs competing for the prestigious title as well as prizes and $10,000 cash. Most competitors have said it is the experience that is the real reward.
Competition Director Peter Wright said the competition is made possible by gold sponsors Anchor Food Professionals, Unox Australia and Bidfood. They are supported by silver sponsors All Rosie Promotions, Bloom Providore, Leeuwin Coast, Oil2U and SAJ Fruit.
“This year’s event was the most popular ever with huge crowds watching every heat. Our commentators, Glenn Flood and Tawnya Bahr kept the crowd informed and entertained while the judging panel tirelessly gave their time and expertise to score each heat,” said Wright.
Judges included celebrated Melbourne chefs Scott Pickett, George Colombaris, Jenna Louise Cunningham, Mark Normoyle, Jerry Mai, Andrew Ballard and Telina Menzies. Chefs John McFadden came from Sydney and Gary Johnson from Brisbane.
The next Australian Professional Chef of the Year will be held at the International Convention Centre in Sydney from the 19th to the 21st of May 2024. Entries will open soon.