Hunter's best young chefs compete for scholarship glory

TALENT: Some of the action from last year's cook-off. Picture: Dominique Cherry.
TALENT: Some of the action from last year's cook-off. Picture: Dominique Cherry.

Ten of the Hunter’s best apprentice chefs are busily preparing for the biggest cook-off of their lives.

On Tuesday they will be competing at Hamilton TAFE for the chance to win the annual $10,000 Brett Graham Scholarship. They need to cook a three-course meal for 60 industry members and, given the calibre of last year’s finalists, expectations are high.

Last year's Brett Graham Scholarship winner Nele Sadler, of Subo.

Last year's Brett Graham Scholarship winner Nele Sadler, of Subo.

The Brett Graham Scholarship was established in 2003 as a partnership between Hunter Culinary Association and TAFE NSW – Hunter Institute and is named after Brett Graham of The Ledbury in London. He is one of Hunter TAFE’s most successful alumni.

The winner not only gets the cheque, but is also given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly to London and work alongside Graham at The Ledbury, which is ranked 27th on the World’s Best Restaurants list.

The recipient can use the rest of their winnings to experience the best restaurants Europe has to offer before returning home to commence a Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery at TAFE NSW – Hunter Institute.

Mark MacManus (head teacher Commercial Cookery - Hunter TAFE), 2016  Brett Graham Scholarship recipient Nele Sadler (Subo) and Ben Neil (Hunter Culinary Association chairman).

Mark MacManus (head teacher Commercial Cookery - Hunter TAFE), 2016 Brett Graham Scholarship recipient Nele Sadler (Subo) and Ben Neil (Hunter Culinary Association chairman).

Ben Neil, Hunter Culinary Association Chairman, is thrilled the Brett Graham Scholarship, in partnership with TAFE NSW, has continued to go from strength to strength.

“Originally, the scholarship funds would cover the cost of the winner’s flights,” he says. “Now, thanks to events such as the annual Food Fight, we have been able to provide the winner with a life-changing experience.

“Each year the scholarship attracts the region’s best apprentices and young chefs and sees them gain international experience, with most returning home to our region. Our core focus is to foster upcoming talent in the industry for years to come.”

At Tuesday’s preliminary cook-off entrants will be narrowed down to three finalists. Then, on October 24, each of the finalists will design, prepare and cook a three-course menu based on two cuts of pork while managing a kitchen “support team” of apprentices. This year’s judges are former scholarship recipient Garreth Robbs, of Bistro Molines; Stephanie Airlie-Noé from House of Airlie Public Relations; and Tracey Amos from TAFE NSW.