Young chefs shine in culinary contest

Chefs competing in the regional semi-finals of the RCL Foods Young Chef and Baker Competition at the Capsicum Culinary Studio.

Three Cape Town culinary teams have shown that their cooking and baking skills are more than just a flash in the pan, and now they are moving to the final round of the RCL Foods Young Chef and Baker Competition.

Culinary teams of two competed in the mystery basket regional semi-final round in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg on Thursday September 14 with the top-three teams selected from each region. The Cape Town leg took place at the Capsicum Culinary Studio, in Salt River.

The competition provides a platform for young chefs and bakers to show their talent.

Catherine Sainsbury and Robert Zituta, from Silwood School of Cookery in Rondebosch; Gillian Zenda and Tshepang Chauke, from Chefs Training and Innovation Academy in Stellenbosch; and Wade Pheko and Tamia Pienaar, from West Coast College’s hospitality school in Malmesbury, impressed judges with their culinary creativity, precision and teamwork.

Robert, 19, from Observatory, said they had had very little hope of making it to the finals but had decided to give it a go.

“It came as a shock to us when we were chosen as finalists. My partner and I just looked at each other in amazement and pride as we walked up to receive our golden ticket. We look forward to finals and plan on getting as much practice in.”

His teammate, Catherine, 26, from Sea Point, said she had enjoyed making the Japanese milk bun and had practised making it a few times in the weeks leading up to the competition.

“The dish I found the most challenging was the main course – mainly due to the length of time we had to prepare and plate it. In the practice sessions we had, I personally found that an hour was quite challenging to achieve the depths of flavour I’d ideally want to serve. It was really incredible to see the dish that we were able to put together in that space of time.”

Gillian, 20, from Strand, said being able to make ravioli from scratch had been a wow moment for her and her teammate, Tshepang.

“We had to use the compulsory Fry’s ingredient, and it was my first time hearing about that brand, but we were able to make a mouth-watering dish out of it. We turned the Fry’s products into a creamy filling, which was delish along with a hearty tomato base. That combination was just amazing.”

Tshepang, 18, from Stellenbosch, was relieved their hard work paid off.

“It feels spectacular to be in the finals. I’ll be planning each meal we could make for the finals and just keep myself calm and ready to be thrown with anything.”

After not making it the first time he competed, Wade, 22, from Wellington, was thrilled to have gotten through this time around.

“It was really awesome to be part of the competition and be able to showcase my talent. We are super excited and really looking forward to going to Durban for the finals.”

His teammate, Tamia, 21, from Mamre, said although it had not been easy making unfamiliar dishes they had managed to make the most beautiful dumplings incorporating plant-based products.

“For me, the dish we prepared was an inspiration from Asian, Chinese, Taiwanese cultures. Our dumplings were one for the books because of the plant-based products we used.”

James Khoza, president of SA Chefs, praised the semi-finalists, saying: “The calibre of entries we’ve received is a true testament to the passion and dedication that South African chefs pour into their craft.”

The national finals will take place on Thursday October 12 in Durban with a R30 000 cash prize for first place, R20 000 for second and R15 000 for third.

Patience Muzungu takes her rolls out the oven.
Catherine Sainsbury during the bread course.
Finalists Wade Pheko and Tamia Pienaar.
Gillian Zenda mixes her batter.
The contestants’ bread ready for judging.