Year 13 students Sam Heaven and Daniel Moss have taken out the grand prize in the final of the National Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge (NSSCC).

Heaven and Moss collected a gold medal for their outstanding entrée and main dishes after going head to head with eight other regional teams in a high-pressure live 90-minute kitchen cook off at Manukau Institute of Technology’s Culinary School.

“I have been chasing this title for two years and to have finally won is amazing,” said Heaven.

“Each year I’ve learned so much and put it back into developing the dishes for the next year. To finish up with the top accolade finishes off my school years perfectly!”

Marc Wylie, who led the team of judges, said the bar had been raised again in this year’s competition.

“Each year we see the competition standards raised as the event increases in profile, attracting larger numbers,” said Wylie. “The students’ skill levels were impressive, combined with contemporary ideas and professional practices. Our industry is in good hands if any of these students decide to move into hospitality as a career.”

The team had to produce four portions of entrée and main meals in just 90 minutes. The dishes had to include New Zealand produced vegetables and chicken, with silverbeet being the hero vegetable. Molecular gastronomy was an impressive feature of the boys’ meals.

The entrée titled, “The City by the Sea” incorporated silverbeet, Manuka smoked sun dried tomato duck egg tart, silverbeet spaghetti, truffle meringue, a silverbeet nutmeg mousse encased in a mozzarella balloon, squid ink coral sponge and beurre noisette of snapper. The dish, which was served on a piece of slate, surrounded by river stones drew on the inspiration of childhood fishing trips at Haumoana Beach where wild silverbeet used to grow on the banks. The smell of the sea was recreated using a combination of seawater and dry ice, which released a fog and evoked the smell of salty sea air. A speaker was placed inside a shell that played sounds of the sea.

Heaven and Moss’ main “Chickens in Grandma’s Garden” comprised of a cream cheese, herb, cashew nut mousse and cream cheese marshmallow stuffed organic chicken served with Bourbon Oak smoked mash potatoes, baby beetroot and carrots topped with a beetroot and lavender gel. The dish was served with a thyme, coriander, lemon and lavender scent to represent the smells from grandma’s kitchen.

The boys and their teacher will be flown to Sydney for an exclusive culinary experience, including a behind the scenes look at the Sydney hospitality industry, dining at high profile restaurants, visiting some of Sydney’s vibrant food markets and more.