• The S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy has seen many of its alumni rise to stardom over the years of this prestigious international competition.

    The carefully crafted combination of mentorship, connection to the global community, exposure to internationally acclaimed chefs and a philosophy of sustainability and personal beliefs, is about so much more than competing – it gives each chef a chance to grow, develop and reach for their very best. The latest edition sees 15 young chefs from Africa, Middle East & South Asia region who will embrace the challenge, vying for recognition and a prestigious place in the global final.

    The competition’s largest region geographically encompasses an extremely diverse range of culinary cultures: India, the Middle East, South Africa and includes chefs hailing from even further afield, so expect a fascinating array of dishes and influences at the regional event, which will take place in Cape Town in January 2023.

    Meet the finalists from South Africa

    Ellah Maepa

    Ellah Maepa is the executive chef and manager at The Backyard Café in Cape Town.

    • Mentor: Lapo Magni
    • Dish: Greenage – vegan seitan, rooibos infused bao buns, pickled cucumber, gooseberries, kiwi

    Ellah’s dish is inspired by the power of flavour in simplicity, and her love for fusion.

    “As a chef, you always feel like you can do better. I find comfort in how people react to my dishes, and so with this dish, I embrace the produce the earth gives us. I want each component to be felt with every bite for what it is!”

    Tiaan Snyman

    Tiaan Snyman is a junior sous chef at Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa in Johannesburg.

    • Mentor: Matthew Foxon
    • Dish: Pauline’s Lamb – Karoo lamb seared, braised, cured, and smoked with port jus and carrots

    Tiaan’s dish is a tribute to his grandmother and how she inspired him to pursue cooking professionally.

    “Growing up, a lamb was, and still is, an expensive commodity, and always went hand in hand with a special occasion in my home. The preparation of the lamb dish was tasked to my grandmother who would always take great care and never leave anything to waste.”

    Bianca Strydom

    Bianca Strydom is a development chef for Woolworths and previously worked at The Restaurant at Waterkloof as well as La Colombe.

    • Mentor: Grégory Czarnecki
    •  Dish: Sunny side up – vichyssoise purée and egg yolk filled ravioli, onion velouté, cured egg yolk

    Bianca wanted to create a dish that can live on a fine dining menu, made with affordable, attainable, everyday ingredients that she grew up eating at least once a week.

    “It is important to remember that knowledge, skill, and technique count for so much. A roast potato, a soft-boiled egg and a plate of pasta have so much potential if you know how to work with basic ingredients.”

    Aengus Moloney

    Aengus Moloney will be relocating to Ireland in late November to work as a chef at Tuscany Bistro, previously based at Gåte at Quoin Rock near Stellenbosch.

    • Mentor: Grégory Czarnecki
    •  Dish: Bobotie? Today and Tomorrow – bobotie braised beef cheek, brûléed bay custard and yellow rice steam bun

    Aengus’ recipe comes from childhood memories of his mum’s adaptation of the recipe when he and his brother refused to eat raisins.

    “Bobotie is a traditional South African dish and everyone has their version of it. Mine is rooted in the dish my mother made us that we’d have for dinner one night and on a sandwich for lunch the next day. I’ve found my interpretation while holding true to that core memory.”

    Zanté Neethling

    Zanté Neethling recently moved to Nest restaurant in Knysna, working in the role of head chef, previously from Hazendal Wine Estate.

    • Mentor: Michélle Theron
    •  Dish: Strandveld Ecosystem – smoked mussel flan, pickled kob, sweet potato tart, buchu sauce, golden sage tea

    Zanté embraces indigenous South African ingredients growing in their natural habitat along the Southern African coastline.

    “We live in a land of forgotten foods. The dish uses a variety of indigenous medicinal fynbos plants which are pure and nutritious. I am using these ingredients in a modern way to showcase an edible ecosystem and express South African terroir.”

    Tiisetso Matela

    Tiisetso Matela is head chef at Rust en Vrede in Stellenbosch

    • Mentor: Fabio Daniel
    •  Dish: Seared kudu and sorghum – kudu, fermented and burned sorghum, sago jus, butternut, bean puree

    Tiisetso combines elements and ingredients that convey traditional cultures within South Africa, he says:

    “Sorghum is mainly used in African cultures as a staple ingredient for porridge and traditional beer fermentation. Kudu reflects our Afrikaans farm heritage, kudu is one of the best meats to braai (barbecue) on either spit or direct coals.”

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    Feature Image supplied by Paddington Station PR 

    Issued by Paddington Station PR