S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016: All the Action from Day 1 of the Grand Final
After six hours of intense activity at The Mall, Milan, the moment finally arrived: 10 of the 20 S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016 finalists, who had been hard at work since early morning, came to present their signature dishes for the scrutiny of the Seven Sages. Each chef stepped onto the stage in front of camera crews and an audience of onlookers, including the expectant young chefs and mentors due to cook on day two.
As the panel of top international judges, including Gaggan Anand, Elena Arzak, Mauro Colagreco, Carlo Cracco, David Higgs and Roberta Sudbrack took to the stage, a characteristically enthusiastic Wylie Dufresne was keen to get to work declaring "Let’s eat." Cracco outlined what the jury were looking for in a young chef: "Sensible, very imaginative, very modern and have respect for the job and the products."
Day One – 10 Regional Finalists
Sean MacDonald from Canada was first up, presenting his dish of roasted duck breast, with a cacophony of flavours inspired by memories of his grandfather. Despite an initial setback with the duck being delivered an hour into the competition the relieved young chef was looking forward to a relaxing glass of wine. Mentor Normand Laprise said: "He was on time and did a good job. What I like about him is he tries to be precise with his skill."
2. Latin America
Next up was the smiley Mexican chef, Daniel Nates, representing Latin America with mentor Gerardo Vazquez Lugo. A very satisfied and confident young chef, he spoke enthusiastically about his largely vegetarian dish (except for the addition of pork fat) inspired by the cornfields from his homeland and its connection to the ancient gods according to the native people. "I hope you enjoy Mexico in every single bite," he exclaimed to the Seven Sages. Meanwhile, his proud mentor commented, "I'm so proud of him and how he's improved since I knew him, both in his speech and in his way of cooking."
3. Africa and Middle East
Grégoire Berger from the Africa and Middle East region was against the clock to deliver his intricately plated dish of many elements under the attentive guidance of his mentor, Chantel Dartnall. The dish drew on his French roots and techniques – a memory of the chefs he worked with and a token of gratitude, as well as reminding him of his hometown. Both were satisfied with the result, while an enthusiastic Dartnall commented on the ethereal qualities of the dish, which is "very technical with many components and a lot of skill.
A concentrated Alessandro Salvatore Rapisarda from Italy was next up as he plated his dish 'marinara risotto' with mentor chef Davide Oldani looking on attentively. Presenting to the Seven sages he said, "I hold this dish close to my heart because I live by the sea and I love rice ... so I blended the sea with the crunchiness of this special kind of rice that is not very well know by the public. "The dish was dressed with a brown sauce made from white mussels, and a white sauce with squid, as well as a black sauce made with squid ink. Oldani was very happy and having tasted the rice he was satisfied it was al dente, and that traditional Italian culture had been translated in a new way.
Anne-Sophie Taurines, representing Switzerland, cooly plated her dish under the watchful gaze of chef mentor André Jaeger. Her dish of smoked and marinated salmon with hay and a selection of fruits and vegetables was designed in order to taste each ingredient. "When you’re walking in the garden – the texture and smell remind you of that," the young chef commented. Her satisfied mentor commented: 'I'm very proud, I was enchanted the first time I saw this dish ... all the ingredients are natural, and she found harmony. All the ingredients blend and to look at it is wonderful. It’s beautiful, I’m very proud and happy for her."
6. North East Asia
Matteo Zonarelli, the Italian chef representing North East Asia and based in Macau, plated up as mentor Jacques Reymond stood nearby tentatively stroking his chin. The Italian chef presented his dish to the jury by explaining the complex cooking techniques behind each element of the dish. "Be focused on the ingredient and not just what the dish looks like,' chef mentor Reymond commented, as well as referring to how the complicated dish captured the seasons.
Chang Liu from China was next up to present his dish to a studious jury busy writing and comparing notes whilst Steven Liu gave his final nod of satisfaction on plating. The duo fielded interested questions from the jury on the simply named 'union' – a dish with a complex base designed to reflect all China's regions – including a bemused Anand on the real age of the century old egg. Steven Liu talked about Chinese food and the meaning behind trying to bring everyone back to eating together and playing with the seasons on the plate: "We want people to come back to the family and are trying to introduce new Chinese cuisine."
8. South East Asia
A cheerful and animated Will Meyrick offered up final directions to Tarun Bhatia representing Southeast Asia, as he finalised the main elements of his dish. With just minutes left to present his dish to the Seven Sages he explained how he sous vide the prawns, as well as the unusual addition of the coconut shell, whilst he performed some complicated plating.
Mitch Lienhard from the USA was supported by his conscientious mentor Dominique Crenn, intently adding the final elements to his duck dish that involved several processes of searing and hanging, as well as smoking with leaves from oak trees. He added a final buckwheat and duck bone tea to the dishes at the judge's table. Crenn talked about how Lienhard had tried to express diversity and determination with his dish. "We also drink a lot of wine," she added, as the confident duo fielded technical questions from the inquisitive jury.
10. UK and Ireland
The last young chef to present his dish was George Kataras, representing the UK and Ireland, the region of last year's winner, Mark Moriarty. Plating up his ‘whole turbot’ dish with mentor Claude Bosi at his side, Kataras commented that it was a good dish that represented a humble guy. Whilst being "less pretty" he said it was packed with flavour. With plenty of time left on the clock the modest young chef needed few words to describe his cured and pan-fried turbot with pickled cabbage and dill powder wrapped inside a turbot skirt.
Follow the days events at #SPYoungChef and join us tomorrow for day two, when the next 10 chefs will compete, with the three super-finalists named at the end of the day.