There are a few amazing initiatives cropping up around KZN, and nationally, to nurture and develop chef talent. One such event, where young chefs get to exhibit their cooking mettle, is the South African Chef Association’s Young Chef Club Brandy Infusions Competition. Like the brandy that observers got to sample, the title is a mouthful, but no less exciting! It premiered this year, organised by Shaun Smith, of Fusion restaurant and cooking school fame, with only 7 slots available. However, due to the overwhelming response it was opened up to allow 10 finalist teams to compete.
The concept is simple. 10 teams of two chefs each had to prepare and serve a starter and a dessert, with both meals paired with a brandy, either neat or in a mixer. They had 10 minutes to serve each course, including the cleaning of the kitchen thereafter.
Although I only had the opportunity to be at the event for a short while, the quality of the plates I saw pass my camera lens and salivating mouth (although sadly not my lips, only judges got to nosh on those) really impressed me, as it did the judges, with the head judge, Gunther Beissel, noting that the dishes were of “an extremely high standard”.
The winning team was Fusion Cooking School’s Zandria De Nobrega and Bernita Oosthuizen. Their starter of Moroccan lamb-style tortellini, basil brandy crème with smoked tomato emulsion and apricot chutney, paired with Oude Meester Demant, and their dessert of mocha and hazelnut-layered panna cotta, hazelnut brandy praline, plum macaroon and a brandy plum custard, chocolate ganache and a plum reduction, paired with a Richelieu 10-year-old secured them a top position.
Second place went to Capsicum Culinary Studio Durban’s Edward Lloyd (who also happens to be the sous chef at Camden 031) and Tyann Robert, and third position to The Oyster Box Hotel’s Brenden Schwenn and Tanya Padayachee. The winners received a trip to the Van Ryn’s Distillery in Stellenbosch and the Klipdrift Distillert in Roberton, a brandy hamper and a Cape Culinary Experience in the kitchen of a top South African chef in Cape Town.
With the success of this year’s event, the SACA KZN YCC look forward to hosting the competition again next year and I very much look forward to watching it again! Young chefs having such opportunities in Durban is one of the reasons why KZN is an emerging force to be reckoned with where food is concerned and I am very excited for what the future holds (and tastes like).