Three young chefs battled it out in the kitchen this week, vying to be crowned the 2023 Beef + Lamb Young Ambassador Chef.
The three finalists were Nic Kearney from Onslow in Auckland, Jacob Aomarere-Poole from The Strong Room in Feilding and Max Loh, an alumnus of Le Cordon Bleu in Wellington.
With pans sizzling and knives chopping it was a closely contested cook-off, with Kearney emerging as the victor, showcasing his exceptional culinary skills with his two mouthwatering dishes – Stuffed Lamb Saddle with Kawakawa, Parsnip and Lamb Neck Beignet, and Steak and Mushroom Pie with Sirloin and Bone Marrow Butter.
Kearney credited his success to his approach of taking simple Kiwi concepts such as a traditional roast lamb and steak and mushroom pie and elevating them into beautifully executed dishes that create a story on the plate.
“With all the suspense and hard work building up to the competition it feels surreal to win,” Kearney said.
“I can now see the value of the practice and attention to detail I put in and it feels like it’s all worth it now.”
Judging the competition were the senior Beef + Lamb NZ (BLNZ) ambassador chefs MacLean Fraser; brand ambassador for Lumina Lamb Andrew May of Amayjen The Restaurant in Palmerston North; BJ Sebastian of Plume Restaurant in Matakana; and Cameron Davies from The Fat Duck in Te Anau.
The judges were unanimous on their decision.
“What left a lasting impression on our judging panel was how well Nic showcased his exceptional culinary skills, from the way he handled the beef and lamb products he chose to work with right through to his methodical approach in executing his dishes with a keen eye for detail. And of course, both his dishes were absolutely delicious,” Fraser said.
Lisa Moloney, foodservice manager at BLNZ, said the competition aimed to provide an opportunity for young chefs to showcase their talents, elevate their profiles in the industry and inspire excellence in their kitchens.
“We want the next generation of chefs to feel excited about their careers and learn as much as they can about cooking with New Zealand beef and lamb,” Moloney said.
“Most young chefs will travel the globe to gain experience and we want them to feel proud about the produce New Zealand grows and be able to showcase this wherever they are working.”
To participate, young chefs were required to submit their best main course beef and lamb dishes, utilizing prime and secondary cuts of beef and lamb.
Three finalists were selected and invited to Peter Gordon’s Homeland in Auckland for a live cook-off.
With 90 minutes on the clock, the chefs worked to impress the judges and vie for the prestigious title.
Kearney will receive mentoring from the senior ambassador chefs and will travel to Central Otago, the home of Provenance Lamb, for an immersive paddock-to-plate journey to gain an insight into the farming side of growing NZ beef and lamb.