The National Golden Chef’s Hat Award is Australia’s longest running and lone annual culinary competition that tests young apprentices’ cooking talents at a regional level, which goes right throughout the national final cook-off. Nine regional teams are competing in the finals, each representing the winners in the regional cook-offs that have started since June 21. Winners from the nine regions –New South Wales, North Queensland, South Australia, Victoria Australia Capital Territory, Northern Territory, South Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania– shall participate in the 3-day National Cook-off and will be judged according to their organization (mise en place, or everything in place), preparation, creativity, presentation and taste.
Mise en place includes the young chefs’ uniforms, hygiene practices, their selections, wastage rate and clean down. Preparation shows the chefs’ techniques, the complexity of their skills, the dishes they are presenting, along with the organization of the chefs’ bench, fridge and stove. In the creativity level, they are judged for their imagination, innovation, accuracy and appropriate use of a minimum of five NESTLE food services products.
The chefs’ presentation skills in the cook-off should show that the dishes are clean and colorful, in fair portioning size, stylistic but commercially practical. It shall also gain points according to its shape, arrangement and balance. The judges shall get the chance to taste the chefs’ concoctions, and will give scores based on flavor, texture, seasoning, doneness, ease of eating (easy to eat), viscosity and nutritional balance—the meal having an accurate proportion of carbohydrates, vitamins, fat, proteins and fiber. The overall weight of the meal that the young finalists should prepare on the day of the contest should be more or less 500-600 grams. Menu descriptions should also be supplied.
All the above criteria are in line with the competition’s goal of determining a universal set of standards in cooking that are easy to understand and could be implemented in the most practical style and approach. It also wanted to develop and build-up the younger generation of chefs in Australia, as all contestants are 23 years old or younger, and are either trainees or commis de cuisines in restaurants within the different regions of the country; or students within the culinary profession. Before they were accepted to join the program, they were asked to write a 50-word (or less) brief about their career goals in the next five years.
Now, everyone is excited as Regional Cook-offs yield their own finalists for the concluding competition. Victoria already has its two-time winner Cameron Wetton, now with his new teammate Matthew Wynn, to once again vie for the top spot this September. The Northern Territory holds up their primary contenders Andrew Chan and William Jolley; North Queensland is propping up their finalists Daniel Peters and Tyler Kelly; while South Australia are cheering on Joel Stephens and Daniel Murphy. New South Wales recently concluded their cook-off this July 12, and has Timothy Gatt and Joshua Deluca as winners. The rest of the regions are still scheduled to have their competitions in the coming months.
The winning team in the National Golden Chef’s Hat Award National Finals shall be awarded an international travel prize worth $15,000 to advance their culinary careers through oversees training. They also gain instant fame and recognition as the best junior chefs in chefs’ uniform in the country, and win instantaneous leverage over their peers as their victory entails publicity stints – press releases, photographs, videos, media interviews and radio and television appearances.
Winning the National Golden Chef’s Hat Award National Finals is, without doubt, one of the biggest breaks an apprentice could have, because as contest organizers say, theirs is a game of skill, and chance definitely plays no part in determining the winning teams. Whoever, therefore, wins, is worthy of the accolade, and deserves the rewards that go with the trophy and the prize.