The countdown is on, with just days remaining until the 12 S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy finalists cook head-to-head to be crowned best young chef in the world at the Grand Finale in Milan, from 28-29 October.
It's in this energy-charged arena that these young talents, supported by their mentors, will step into the bright competition lights and cook in front of a grand jury of some of gastronomy’s biggest names. Each young chef will have just five hours to create ten plates of their chosen signature dish, which they have spent months perfecting.
The prestigious chef jury of Enrico Bartolini, Manu Buffara, Andreas Caminada, Mauro Colagreco, Gavin Kaysen, Clare Smyth and Pim Techamuanvivit will judge each of their signature dishes on technical skill, creativity, personal belief and the chefs’ potential to create positive change in society through food.
The chef who displays these attributes most successfully during the live cook-off on 29 October will be crowned the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy 2021 winner and walk in the footsteps of the previous winners, Mark Moriarty, Mitch Lienhard and Yasuhiro Fujio, affording them global recognition.
Here's a reminder of each of the 12 global finalists, their signature dishes and a few words from them.
Who will you be championing?
Vitalii Savelev - 'Black Sea Rapa with Mushrooms grown on Lemon Peels'
Vitalii Savelev earned the Euro Asia regional title by wowing the judges with his signature dish 'Black Sea rapa with mushrooms grown on lemon peels'.
"This is such an inspiring competition and an unforgettable experience," said the young chef. "Many thanks to my mentors, now I really look forward to doing my best in the Grand Finale.”
Levente Koppány - 'Rainbow Trout with Chervil, Forest Mushrooms and Wild Garlic'
Levente Koppány, the sous chef who won the Central Europe final with his dish - rainbow trout with chervil, forest mushrooms and wild garlic - says it's "quality, not quantity" that counts when you're cooking. "I am lucky because I have great suppliers, who work hard to do their best."
Zhi Cheng Wang - 'What is Soy?'
Zhi Cheng Wang was named Greater China regional champion after impressing the chef jury with his stand-out signature dish: 'What is Soy?' "I want to use Chinese ingredients in contemporary cooking, like olive oil for Italy and corn for Mexico," explained the young chef. "Soy can be on behalf of China, in my mind, so I just champion that."
Jerome Ianmark Calayag - 'Humble Vegetables'
Jerome Lanmark Calayag emerged as the winner at the S.Pellegrino Young Chef UK and North Europe regional final. He impressed the judges with his 'Humble Vegetables' signature dish, a dish, he says, "that shows that we can make very delicious food out of sustainable produce".
Paul Thinus Prinsloo - 'Bouillabaisse 2.0'
Paul Thinus Prinsloo was crowned Africa and Middle East regional winner for his 'bouillabaisse 2.0' signature dish.
"My professional dream is opening my own restaurant and making a success out of it," said the chef de partie. But first, he says, "my aspiration is to work hard and try to do my best at the Grand Finale."
Rafael Covarrubias - 'Mole Spiced Muscovy Duck, Preserved Prune And Winter Roots'
Rafael Covarrubias won the North America regional final with his signature dish - mole spiced muscovy duck, preserved prune and winter roots.
"For me, this dish is not only food but it's culture, a progression of flavours that talk about my career and what cooking really means to me."
Cynthia Xrysw Ruelas Diaz - 'Milpa Y Mar'
Cynthia Xrysw Ruelas Diaz took the Latin America regional title for her signature dish 'Milpa Y Mar'.
"It's a dish that conveys respect towards communities and the environment. I think through cooking we can change the world in a good way," said the chef from Mexico.
Alessandro Bergamo - 'Better an Egg Today or a Chicken Tomorrow?'
Alessandro Bergamo won the Italy and South Europe regional final for his intriguingly entitled dish, 'Better an egg today or a chicken tomorrow?'.
The Italian chef said: "There is savoir-faire behind this dish: the work of the craftsman who comes into play to transform a chicken and a potato into something that can be served in great restaurants."
Albert Manso - 'Codorniz and Vino'
Albert Manso took the top prize at the Iberian and Mediterranean Countries regional final with his 'quail and wine' signature dish.
In the words of the sous chef: "It's a dish in which all the elements of the quail are used so that nothing is wasted from the product. It's also a dish that represents a traditional Spanish cuisine."
Kevin Wong - 'Celebration of a Duck'
Kevin Wong emerged victorious from the Asia regional final with his signature dish 'celebration of a duck'.
"Food is a universal language, and my dish showcases how harmonious flavours can all come together. This dish highlights the importance of balance," said Wong.
Jose Lorenzo Morales - 'Analogy'
Jose Lorenzo Morales won the Pacific regional final with his dish: 'analogy of roasted lechón pork belly, shrimp bagoong paste, pandan rice cracker, latik caramel, and tamarind powder'.
The young chef from Melbourne said: "It's not just a dish that preserves our culture, it conveys a message about all of us on one plate helping each other to see the amazing gifts of nature and conserve this so we can move forward."
Alexandre Alves Pereira - 'Green Asparagus, Sardine, Ground Ivy'
Alexandre Alves Pereira won the North West Europe final with his signature dish: 'green asparagus, sardine, ground ivy'.
"It's a very personal dish that combines three products," he said. "The mixture of cultures and techniques in this dish is for the sole purpose of enhancing the taste of each food."