On Tuesday night 10 talented apprentice chefs in the running for the 2016 Brett Graham Culinary Scholarship took part in a “cook off” at Hunter TAFE’s Hamilton campus.
They were: Jessie Hogan (Little Beach Boathouse); Cameron Scott (Bistro Molines); Jordan Ritter (Talulah); Megan Higgison (The George Tavern Greenhills); Nele Sadler (Subo); Laura Blakemore (The Edwards); Kana Seaton (Emersons Cafe & Restaurant); Desmond Johns (Reserve Wine Bar); Stephanie Windebank (The Mill, Tuscany Wine Estate); and Jakeal Hector (Hobart’s West Group).
Their brief was to create an entree, main and dessert based on the following elements: winter vegetables; venison done two ways; and chocolate and mint.
The competition was fierce but each competitor held their nerve, managing to plate up all three courses for the invited guests as well as guest judges Troy Rhoades-Brown (Muse Dining), Commercial Cookery teacher Tracey Amos and yours truly.
It was a whirlwind of activity in the kitchen – pots boiled, blenders screamed, dishes were washed – and then, with only minutes left until service, all became quiet as the apprentices concentrated on making each plate consistent and pleasing to the eye.
Rhoades-Brown, a past scholarship winner, was generous with his time and extensive culinary knowledge.
The standard was high but three apprentices stood out on the night – Kana Seaton, Jakeal Hector and Nele Sadler. The trio will now compete in the final cook-off on October 18, where the scholarship winner will be announced.
The prestigious culinary prize, named after one of Hunter TAFE’s most successful alumni, Brett Graham, was established in 2003 as a partnership between Hunter TAFE and the Hunter Culinary Association. Valued at $10,000, the scholarship includes return flights to London, the opportunity to work alongside Graham in his two-Michelin-Star restaurant, The Ledbury, and enrolment into the Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery at Hunter TAFE.
Last year’s winner, Jodie Flanagan, completed her apprenticeship at Esca Bimbadgen and is now working as a chef de partie at Oblix in London.