The winners of eight regional secondary school culinary challenges have been named and will now compete in the National Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge (NSSCC) at MIT in Auckland.

The grand final on September 7 will see the winning students go head-to-head against their peers in a live kitchen environment, closely watched by a judging panel consisting of some of the best chefs in the Pacific.

They include esteemed culinary professional Mark Wylie as chief judge, highly respected New Zealand chef and restaurateur Ben Bayly and Pacific Rim Continental Director for WorldChefs, Peter Wright.

Ben Bayly says: “The National Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge is grass roots. It’s where it all begins. Colleges and high schools are the places where we think about what we are going to do with the rest of our lives. It’s a very important time, so for kids to get exposure to hospitality at high school is awesome. It’s a great job, great career and it’s so rewarding. And it can all start with a cooking competition! How incredible is that?”

NSSCC Event Manager Pip Duncan says that in the grand final the students will have a maximum of 90 minutes to reproduce four portions of their entrée and four portions of a main course using a supreme of chicken from Waitoa Chicken. Once the challenge is completed, the winners will be announced at the NSSCC Awards Dinner that night, with the champion school receiving a Moffat E23M3 oven. There is over $12,000 in prizes to be won in the grand final.

The NSSCC regional finalist teams are:

  1. Auckland North and Northland – Kerikeri High School, Kiera Matich and Savanna Munro, Team Manager Stacey Sturge
  2. Auckland South, East and West – Botany Downs College, Wei-Zin Chan and Ashley Hewlett, Team Manager Angie Thompson
  3. Hawkes Bay and Poverty Bay – St Johns College, William Brown and Peter Hannah, Team Manager Craig Ireland
  4. Otago, Southland and West Coast  – Otago Boys High School, Sam Gavin and Maxwell Napier, Team Manager, Emma Moore
  5. Tasman, Nelson, Canterbury, Marlborough – Mountainview High School, Tyler Happer and Latisha Put, Team Manager Tess Jacob
  6. Waikato and Bay of Plenty – Taumarunui High School, Amalia Bradley and Shannon Lacy, Team Manager Corey Wynyard
  7. Wellington, Wairarapa, and Kapiti Coast – Wellington College ,Connor Stinson and Samuel Elliot, Team Manager Sarah Reynolds
  8. Taranaki, Whanganui and Manawatu – Hawera High School, Elijah Lucando and Tara Nottage, Team Manager Koren Miller.

Guest judge Peter Wright says when it comes to judging NSSCC he will be initially looking at individual skill and how the competitor manages their timeframe. “Are they confident or are they panicking, did they challenge themselves enough. Also benchmarking against all the competitors is important to be able to balance the effort of each competitor.”

“The goal of the Culinary Arts Development Trust, who organise NSSCC, is to expose students to career paths in hospitality and to establish industry networks for teachers.  And right now more than ever, the principle of this challenge couldn’t be more relevant with the tight labour market and the number of hospitality businesses eager to recruit staff that show ability.

 “We wish all eight regional finalist teams the very best for the grand final on September 7,” says Chief Judge Mark Wylie.

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