26 July 2022

Preparing Young Stars for the Culinary Stage

Submitted by Kaylin Van Der Vent
Preparing Young Stars for the Culinary Stage

SOUTH AFRICA, CAPE TOWN - The Mount Nelson Reaching for Young Stars competition provides a platform for learning and growth to chefs, baristas, bakers and beverage students studying in Cape Town, with fabulous prizes and global internship opportunities.

Our young talents are key to the future of the hospitality industry - the programme, put together by Showcook.com and now in its 14th year, is designed to give students a substantial boost in creativity, knowledge and industry connections, alongside the competitive element.

Showcook.com co-founder Annette Kesler says “Over the years we have seen many profound changes in curriculum, commitment and professionalism as our culinary academies rose to meet fresh challenges. There is a greater understanding today of a rapidly changing hospitality industry.” The programme has grown to include a broad range of challenges spanning chefs, bakers, baristas, bartenders, and team tasks, with a wealth of well-known brands sponsoring the various categories with ingredients, workshops and substantial rewards.

The winners of the Sanpellegrino cocktail challenge and the S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Best Team award share their experiences.

Sparkling Cocktails

The first challenge is aimed at the beverage students who are tasked with making an original cocktail using Sanpellegrino Italian Sparkling Drinks in their creations. The full range is driven by citrus fruits making these ideal to stimulate creativity in combination with the choice of Cruxland gin or KWV 10YO brandy - the liquor partner in this challenge.

Lyam Johnson (International Hotel School) won the Best Sanpellegrino Italian Sparkling Drink Cocktail with his Old-Fashioned Smash, pairing Sanpellegrino Aranciata Rossa with KWV brandy, mint and orange served in a smoked glass. The competition is a valuable step in growing his career, he says, “I learned how much effort and precision it takes to produce a great bottle of wine, and the importance of good quality ingredients in cocktails, even in simple drinks like a G&T.” Lyam also won the best food and wine pairing starter.

Winning the beverage student category, as well as Best Cruxland Gin Cocktail, with a green cocktail named Cruxland Spritz featuring apple, cucumber, basil, lime and Sanpellegrino Pompelmo, Craig Munemo (Superyacht Culinary Academy) says, “It was challenging, some of the fresh green ingredients overpowered each other, so I used honey syrup and Angostura® bitters to balance flavours. This competition has taught me to be creative and it has boosted my confidence in what I do.” As a result of winning the category, he is looking forward to growing in knowledge and experience with two internships offered by Mount Nelson Hotel and KWV.

The best KWV 10YO cocktail went to Gustav Duvenhage (Chefs Training and Innovation Academy). His cocktail, The Smoking South African, used Sanpellegrino Tonica Oakwood as a mixer, along with rooibos and dried peaches inspired by his parents who always drink their brandy with peach juice. He says, “The competition motivated and inspired me to develop my skills in the beverage section, as well as in food and wine pairing.” Together with his team (see below) Gustav won two of the wine pairing categories.

Fine Mineral Water and Food Pairings Make for a Fine Team

The second challenge was the S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna Best Team presentation which puts the chef teams on the podium with all they’ve learned, including how to pair fine mineral waters with food. The winning team was from Chefs Training and Innovation Academy, a trio of chefs who each placed in the top three in their respective categories of hot chef, pastry chef and baker, as well as winning with their main course and dessert in the food and wine pairing challenge, together with Gustav, the team’s beverage student.

“I learnt how important it is to work as part of a good team in the kitchen,” says Chloe Joubert, pastry chef. “Individually we were very good, but we achieved so much more together because we played on each other's strengths. To me, the team presentation prize was the most important award handed out that night.”

Marthinus Terblanche, adds, “My team was awesome, especially my sous chef Siya who really pulled her weight and helped me bring home the title. We won 2 out of the 3 wine pairing categories, we worked hard to have both the wine and the food shine’’.

Chloe appreciated the opportunity of working with the Krone team to learn about their MCC, “I'd always been told that MCC was a difficult wine to cook with, but when I tasted the Night Nectar it was as if my dessert and the Night Nectar were made for each other. I've learnt to be more open-minded and to move out of my comfort zone with food and wine pairings.”

For the team to cover all the categories required, pastry chef, Jessica Scholtz, says “It’s opened my mind up to exploring more into the bread/dough side of pastry where I initially lacked in confidence, through this competition it has become something I love to do.”

Coming third in the hot chef category and winning best main dish, Marthinus also gets the amazing opportunity, along with the two other hot chef winners, of a 5-month internship in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, at Winslow’s Tavern, a top heritage destination restaurant, owned by South Africans Philip and Tracey Hunt.

Clearworld suppliers National Sales and Marketing Manager, Ania Odyniecka, adds“ We are always looking toward initiatives in support of young talent, it’s great to know that nowadays, such opportunities are available. This industry thrives on people and their passion for the craft – synonymous with the story of our brands.‘’

This year the programme found a new home and sponsor at the Mount Nelson in Cape Town, A Belmond Hotel, where General Manager, Tiago Moraes Sarmento feels it is vital to develop tomorrow's leaders in the world of hospitality. “To succeed in the art of hospitality,” he says, “one needs to be driven by an inner passion for human connection and creativity and to have an innate generosity of spirit. The "Nellie" is devoted to cultivating and nurturing that fervour in younger generations.” 

As well as a newfound sense of confidence in their abilities, students took home a fabulous array of prizes and gifts from sponsors, including KitchenAid, Scanpan cookware and more, making the Reaching for Young Stars programme a rewarding and stimulating experience for all involved. Sanpellegrino looks forward to seeing these young winners develop and grow in their future careers.

Published in Food & Beverages

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