WelTec Student Places Third in World’s Largest Digital Culinary Competition

WelTec cookery student, Jess Hoskins, has placed third in the 7th annual Young Chef Olympiad 2021 (YCO) - a global culinary event.

Hoskins competed against students from 49 other countries, over six continents and 24 time zones, and was assessed by a panel of 30 esteemed chefs from around the world, including Michelin star chefs Chris Galvin and Brian Turner.

The international culinary competition is usually held in India, however, due to COVID-19 border closures, the competition had to change its format to be completely virtually run. This makes it the world’s largest ever, virtual culinary competition.

The YCO is an international cooking competition, which brings together young promising future stars of the culinary community on a single platform where they can connect, share ideas and innovations, and compete in front of judges at the top of their game.

Since its inception in 2015, the competition has grown from 15 competing nations to 50 in 2021. This year first place went to Lee Maan Ki of the prestigious International Culinary Institute (ICI) in Hong Kong, while second place went to Srijaenthi Natraj of ICCA Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. 

Hoskins is currently completing her Level 4 Cookery Certificate at WelTec. She spent a few years working in the industry, most recently at a Sicilian deli in Melbourne, before heading home during lockdown to start her WelTec programme and has recently started working part-time at Artisan at the Bolton Hotel where she is excited to learn from the amazing chefs there.

“I am so happy to have been able to represent New Zealand and WelTec at the YCO,” expressed Hoskins.

“I never would have thought that I would have the opportunity to do something like this, and I am so proud of myself for getting placed third in an international competition. I honestly believe it is a testament to the teaching staff at WelTec who put their hearts and souls into teaching and are really amazing at what they do.”

“Jess has worked extremely hard to get to this point and fully deserves her third-place finish. She has only been on the programme since July 2020 but has really shown her skills coming up against senior students with more experience in the YCO competition,” noted Programme Manager for Hospitality at WelTec, Ben Shadbolt.

“We have been working on the competition since November last year. This included supporting Jess through a rigorous registration process, training and recipe development as well as the technical aspect of competing online. Jess also had fellow level 4 cookery student Sian Davis acting as her commis chef throughout the training and during the competition.”

Due to the competition being judged virtually, there were very strict technical criteria. According to YCO, competitors required a four-camera setup, which including a front-facing laptop camera, a camera focused on the entire table, a camera capturing the dish from the top, and a mobile camera for judges to be able to take a closer look at the dish.

“Although it was a bit of extra work for our team, it was amazing to see that the competition could still go ahead in the middle of a global pandemic,” said Shadbolt.

WelTec School of Hospitality also picked up the YCO sustainability award which required a separate entry where the student and mentor explained how their Institute promotes sustainability and environmental issues.

Further information about courses can be found on the Whitireia and WelTec website.