Hospitality Business Magazine

NZ WelTec student selected for Young Chef Olympiad

Wellingtonian Michelle Burling-Claridge, a Level 5 Diploma in Hospitality Management student at Whitireia and WelTec (Te Pūkenga), has been selected to represent New Zealand at the IIHM Young Chef Olympiad 2023 on January 29.

Following two years of hosting the International Institute of Hotel Management’s Young Chef Olympiad event online, the global culinary competition is now back to being judged in person in India.

Michelle represents New Zealand in the section Group E heat to be held in Hyderabad, with competitors from Jordan, Sweden, Namibia, Spain, USA, South Africa, Uzbekistan and Portugal.

Young chefs from over 50 countries will fly to India to compete. Competitors will be judged on several factors: ability to cook with given ingredients within a specified time, creativity of dish and taste, and utilisation of pre-selected ingredients.

Michelle, 21, with her WelTec tutor, Frank Prskawetz, will be flying over to whip up a culinary storm.

“This is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as there is only one young chef selected from each of the 50 participating countries,” says Frank.

Michelle, who finished high school at Onslow College before completing WelTec programmes in bakery, cookery and hospitality, is both nervous and excited about the challenge.

“It is just awesome news and it doesn’t yet feel quite real to me! I am so excited to go to India as I have only ever travelled to Australia before.

“It will be incredible to meet other upcoming chefs and the competition will be a good test of pressure. But of course so many things can go wrong when you are cooking so I am a bit nervous about that! Frank, however, has trained me well and taught me great new techniques, so I feel confident,” says Michelle.

Frank Prskawetz, explains that in the initial round students will prepare a vegetarian dish made from a table of ingredients (like a magic box), and a lemon meringue tart for dessert. In the final round, they will make a classic French omelette, a prawn dish from a table of ingredients, and a tarte tatin to finish.

“We have been practicing preparing dishes from pre-selected ingredients to help get Michelle used to this format. She is a very well rounded chef, having done both cookery and bakery through WelTec, so I am sure she will do well,” says Frank.

Michelle is currently working at Hippopotamus restaurant at the QT Hotel Wellington, and hopes the Young Chef Olympiad will be a stepping stone to further work and travel overseas. “I would love to work and travel around the world, and that is what I am hoping to do next.”