The Nestlé Golden Chef's Hat Award is preparing for the 2021 virtual grand finals, having chosen the top 12 pool of young chef talent from New Zealand and Australia.
The New Zealand finalists will compete on 17 November at the QT Queenstown hotel, with a virtual awards ceremony broadcast to follow on 30 November.
Representing the North Island is Samantha Warena, and the South Island is Jamie Jackson.
Warena is working on her game plan for the big event and is taking the judges' feedback to heart so she can improve for the finals. Her main was seared ginger stuffed sous vide chicken breast, a braised chicken lollipop on sweet potato puree and vegetables, followed by a chilli-infused chocolate mousse on a crispy orange shortbread served with spiced rhubarb for dessert.
Jackson is perfecting his skills in the practice kitchen, so he is in "top form" for the competition. His main was roasted chicken with a kumara croquette, carrot puree, broccolini and herb oil split jus, and dessert was a fermented black pepper and chocolate cremeux, caramelised white chocolate and citrus.
Each of the 12 finalists will compete simultaneously across their regions commercial kitchens, with two NZChefs or Australian Culinary Federation expert judges onsite to assess professional practices, presentation and taste. Their time in the kitchen will be live-streamed to a panel of remote judges who will calculate the results.
Executive chef and Nestlé Professional head chef Mark Clayton said although they could not return to face-to-face cook-offs, they were determined to give the finalists the opportunity to showcase their skills and create a rewarding experience.
The 2021 Golden Chef of the Year will be awarded a $10,000 (AUD) prize to further their career.