Following months of intense competition the 20 regional finalists are now busily preparing themselves for the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016 Grand Final which takes place on 13th, 14th and 15th October in Milan, Italy.
As they perfect their signature dishes we spoke to each of the 20 finalists to find out a little more about them. Here are some of the highlights….
How is your signature dish unique?
“Because it combines simplicity, sustainability and zero wastage” said UK & Ireland finalist, George Kataras on his ‘Whole turbot’ signature dish.
“Because all the ingredients are local and come from less than 100 km away” said Eastern Europe finalist, Rodrigo Sandor on his dish of ‘Mangalica pork cheek with caramelised cauliflower puree, raisins coulis, beetroot tortellini’.
“Because I will express the beauty and rich colour of Japan’s four seasons in just one dish ... I will use an entire duck without throwing away any part of it, so you will be able to taste duck in many different cooking styles; the duck will be the protagonist which will contain and express the splendour of each season” said Japan finalist Seira Furuya on her ‘The four seasons in Japan’ dish.
What are the main influences in your signature dish?
“This dish is a culmination of my years of working in kitchens, and also of me trying to work with the best possible ingredients that I can find in NZ. Definitely there is an Italian influence in the creativity of the dish, but also a French influence in terms of the flavour.” said Pacific & Australia finalist, Leslie Hottiaux, on her dish of ‘Potato gnocchi, mushrooms, pine nuts and truffle’.
“The dish is a taste and texture of a vegetable garden…As in a garden, each product is respected, despite the work of this one the original taste is preserved” said Anne-Sophie Taurines, Switzerland finalist, of her dish of ‘Marinated and hay-smoked salmon, garden vegetable, rocket, green apple, ginger sauces, condiments and flowers’.
“The main influences on my signature dish are my favorite ingredients and my grandfather. My grandpa is important to me, so I wanted to create a dish inspired by him... He usually has caramel and liquorish candies in his stash. I decided to create a dish based off of those flavour profiles...Another big influence on this dish would be Chef Daniel Humm.” said Canada finalist Sean MacDonald on his dish of ‘Pan roasted duck, brined in fennel juice with caramelized carrot, pickled fennel, roasted date jam and star anise jus’.
How are you collaborating with your S.Pellegrino Young Chef mentor in order to perfect your dish for the final?
“It is great for me to have such an experienced mentor. Karl Heinz Hauser is giving me precious dishes and tricks” said Germany & Austria finalist Matthias Walter.
“We often speak on the phone, he gives me lots of advice ... in September we will meet a couple of times in his restaurant to plan and shape the plate for the final” said Italian finalist Alessandro Salvatore Rapisarda.
“Chef Dominque and I have been meeting and practicing to fine tune every aspect of the dish. She has an amazing way of focusing on what the dish represents and what I want to say with it” said US finalist Mitch Lienhard.
What led you to choosing a career in the kitchen?
“I always loved to stay in the kitchen with my mother and my grandmother since I was very young so I guess my family led me to make this choice” said NE Asia finalist, Matteo Zonarelli.
“Every Sunday when I was a child my grandmother prepared a meal for the whole family with energy, care, and attention … I put the same commitment into my work that she did to transmit this passion to my customers” said Benelux finalist Andrea Miacola.
What are your professional ambitions?
“To create a network of indigenous suppliers and so make their products accessible to many more people” said Latin America finalist Daniel Nates.
“Just to work hard and grow as a chef and a person. I think it’s natural for me to take whatever I do as far as I can. But I would like to help Nordic cuisine grow even more” said Scandinavia finalist Nikolaj Schmidt Skadborg.
“My vision is to create an organic farm in the mountain areas of central Greece and more specifically on the mountain of Centaurs where I grew up and where all taste of my childhood lie” said Mediterranean finalist Nicolaos Billis.
What is the most exciting/challenging element of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition for you?
“To get to know Andoni Luis Aduriz, for me, the best mentor in the world. The delight of working with him and visiting Mugaritz. Also, of course, to be able to enjoy, for second year in a row, the spectacular organisation of S.Pellegrino, Milan, and get to know 19 fantastic young chefs and their admirable mentors,” said Spain & Portugal finalist David Andrés.
“The atmosphere of the competition is so exciting. The opportunity to compete with best young chefs around the all world now is most exciting/challenging part” said Russia, Baltics & CIS finalist Hezret Berdiev.
"The most exciting/challenging element is competing with the young best chefs from around the world” said SE Asia finalist Tarun Bhatia.
What will you do if you win the competition?
“I want to share in the passion with cooks from different countries, traveling more and expand my cooking universe” said France finalist Shintaro Awa.
“I would like use this opportunity to train with the best S.Pellegrino's chefs to improve my knowledge and to create my own fine dining concept. I would like also to build a food charity concept, kind of charity street food/truck and open a pop-up restaurant all around the world” said the Africa & Middle East finalist Gregoire Bérger.
“I think winning is not an end, but a beginning, I would like people around the world understand China, Chinese ingredients and Chinese culture” said China finalist Chang Liu.