Phase Two: The Young Chef Semi-Finalist Selection Process
Applications for S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 are now closed and expectant young chefs around the world now face an anxious wait for the results to be revealed on 7 June.
In the coming weeks each young chef’s application and signature dish will be evaluated by experts at the world’s leading international educational and training centre for Italian Cuisine, ALMA.
The top 10 semi-finalists for each geographic region will be selected by the Italian culinary school according to the five Golden Rules: Ingredients, skill, genius, beauty and message.
The young chefs fortunate enough to be shortlisted as a semi-finalist will embark on their exciting culinary journey, starting with the regional local finals this year, but with their sights set firmly on the Grand Finale in Milan in May 2018.
We caught up with Matteo Berti, Alma’s Director of Education, to find out more about the culinary school’s role as gatekeeper in the international competition, one that has the potential to change a young chefs career.
What is ALMA’s role in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 competition?
It is our responsibility to select and accompany all candidates in such a way as to make the competition realistic and extremely educational. S.Pellegrino Young Chef is also a moment of international encounter, exchange and sharing.
So, how will ALMA go about shortlisting just 10 semi-finalists for each of the 21 geographical world regions for S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018?
The criteria are very clear and fully reflect the work carried out by ALMA over the years. First of all, we could never ignore the quality and sophistication of the ingredients used to make a signature dish, but also the attention given to sustainability and respect during preparation; the innovation exercised towards a profound knowledge of tradition; and the presentation and message that a chef must communicate through his or her work, as a form of intimate and creative expression.
What qualities are ALMA looking for in a standout young chef application?
This is a competition characterised by a strong internationality, where all the participants enter into a mood of gastronomic cultural exchange from the beginning.
Ambition and curiosity are fundamental, and ALMA pays particular attention to ethics. We believe that in order to become a great chef, we must have, and communicate, deep and firm values: consistency, cleanliness, rigour, and willingness to learn and improve continuously. I believe those principles are indispensable.
What impressed you most about the chefs at S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016?
Both in the local stages and at the Grand Finale, I was impressed by the synergy between chefs and the assistants and commis they were working alongside. Although young, these chefs showed they had great charisma and authority, control of their work and their brigade, as well as exemplary emotion management.
In your opinion, why did Mitch Lienhard’s signature dish of roast duck with spiced orange and yams see him crowned S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016?
Mitch was genial in knowing how to blend different gastronomic traditions together, thus creating an international dish: the symmetry and precision typical of French technique applied to a great classic of Asian cuisine such as duck with spices, reinterpreted in an American style with the use of sweet potato.
One of the challenges for every young chef who participates in S.Pellegrino Young Chef is to know how to balance tradition with innovation. Mitch Lienhard’s dish achieved this.
Any final advice for expectant young chefs?
Never stop learning and astonishing yourself. Curiosity is the key to success in life and work. Be proud of what you are doing and be proud of your job!
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