Every other year New Zealand hosts a competition within the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs members to select a national representative to compete at the International Jeunes Chefs Competition. The purpose of this competition is to encourage and promote the culinary expertise of young Chefs Rôtisseurs in the tradition of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs by exposing them to a competitive environment with their peers.

After months of preparation, seven young competitors from around the country, were ready to compete in the Concours National des Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs in Wellington. The competitors gathered at the spacious and well-equipped facilities at Le Cordon Bleu who generously made the facilities available for the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs to use.

Faced with a mystery black box that included assorted fruit, vegetables and pantry items sponsored by Bidfood, Bidfresh, and an array of other sponsors, a whole Ora-King salmon, Waitoa chicken and Whittakers dark chocolate, the commis had just four hours to write their menu and prepare a three-course meal for four people.

The jury members were impressed with the quality of the culinary skills displayed. The tasting judges awarded points on the three categories of taste, presentation and originality. The three kitchen judges, all professionals, awarded points on professionalism, sanitation, cooking skills, and menu composition. They also deducted points for lateness, reflecting real-life challenges of working kitchens.

Third place went to Douglas Anderson of Bolton Hotel, Wellington. Daniel Baird of Wharekauhau Country Estate, Wairarapa took out second place, both competitors took home a high-quality chef’s knife sponsored by Southern Hospitality.

The first-place winner and New Zealand candidate for the International competition was Zachariah Meads of UCOL, Palmerston North. Zachariah showed innovation and creativity with his dishes and his cooking techniques and presentation was of a high standard. Zachariah also received a high-quality knife care of Southern Hospitality and will now be further trained and prepped to compete in Canada in the 2018 Concours International des Jeunes Commis Rôtisseurs.

Last month Zachariah won the Commi Chef of the Year title at the New Zealand Hospitality Championships.