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The S.Pellegrino Cooking Cup 2014 came to an exciting end in Venice last night as jury members, press and VIPs from around the world converged on the iconic Palazzo Ducale to hear the Russian chef Sergey Berezutskiy crowned the 2014 S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna Young Chef of the Year. In 2015 the S.Pellegrino Young Chef will be awarded in a brand new way: the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015, the most exciting talent search for chefs in the world. S.Pellegrino launches a global talent search to find the best Young Chef in the world, who be elected by an International jury in June during Expo Milano 205: find out more about the challenge and how to apply.
Speaking just minutes after receiving the award, Berezitskiy said: “I’m totally shocked, it was so unexpected to hear my name. It was very difficult to cook during the race but I’m incredibly happy. All my emotions are left on the boat because I put my heart into this. I hope that Russian cuisine becomes more known around the world and all the people will know, understand and love Russian cuisine.”
Ten chefs, below 30-years-old, took park in the competition. They came from Israel to Canada, South Korea to Dubai. To win, all they had to do was impress a starstudded jury, that consisted of chefs Gaston Acurio, Davide Scabin, Umberto Bombana, Andreas Caminada, Helena Rizzo and last year’s winner, Paul Qui, alongside, Giacomo Missoni from the Missoni fashion label, Charles Reed, group managing director of The World’s 50 Best Academy and the TV presenter Francesca Barberini. The jury analysed the chefs over a number of challenges including a personal dish presentation on day one followed by the much harder challenge of cooking onboard their country’s boat, while that boat competed in a regatta.
Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio gave his thumbs up the level of dishes, adding: “It’s very important that we make much more competitions for young chefs. They’re looking at us all the time, they’re looking at us on videos, television radio, magazine, in books, the web - that could make them feel that it’s too hard to make their dream come true. It’s very important that we support them by doing these competitions and make them feel part of the story.”
The second day began in high spirits. After transporting their ingredients onto boats, the chefs began to cook below deck while crews sailed towards the much larger Timoteo boat - owned by the Missoni family. A quick pull up alongside is all that was needed as perfect plates, with the occasional break or spill, came flying out of the tiny kitchens and lifted up to the judges. Paul Qui, last year’s Young Chef of the Year, looked relaxed from the sidelines, laughing: “It’s a lot less stressful being a judge.” And the stylish Swiss chef Andrea Caminada, his first year as a judge, seemed happy to soak it all in, smiling, “there’s no better place to be today.”
Dishes offered a real mix with most chefs opting to express their own country’s cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. The Israeli chef Ahmad Salameh received the The Critic’s Choice Award and the Belgium chef, Thomas Troupin, picked up the prize for The People’s Choice Award. Second position for the Acqua Panna and S.Pellegrino Young Chef of the Year award went to, again, Thomas Troupin with third awarded to the German chef Kirill Kinfelt. Caminada said he was surprised at the level of the young chefs competing, adding: “I had a lot of fun, the standard was good and there was a great atmosphere.”
The celebrations continued into the night during a gala dinner at the beautiful Palazzo Ducale. Blue lights thoughout the courtyard helped set the mood as the Palazzo hosted an unforgettable meal from Massimiliano Alajmo who produced a creative menu built on solid foundation of Italian flavour. Dishes included a game of textures - with tomato, eggplant and pesto from what Alajmo called “the extra virgin garden” and a fish dish of “softness and succulence” for which the chef asked diners to place ear plugs in and eat in total silence. A moment of quiet in a day bustling with cheer, great conversation and the constant clink of glass on glass, or, perhaps more appropriately put, boat on boat.