Two students from St John’s College have taken out the grand prize in the Final of the National Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge (NSSCC) and are on their way to Sydney for a culinary experience of a lifetime.
Year 13 students, Sam Heaven and Daniel Moss, collected a Gold Medal for their outstanding entrée and main dishes after going head to head with eight other regional teams in a high pressure live 90 minute kitchen cook off at Manukau Institute of Technology’s Culinary School.
Sam Heaven, who has competed for two consecutive years said he was overwhelmed by their win. “The self-satisfaction is huge. I’ve been chasing this title for two years and to have finally won is amazing. Each year I’ve learned so much and put it back into developing the dishes for the next year. To finish up with the top accolade finishes off my school years perfectly!”
This was the second tilt at the title for Daniel Moss who felt the journey was almost as good as the win.
“We have constantly been improving our skills, improving our dishes and upping our plate skills. We’ve changed from a classical approach to this year’s modern dishes and innovative presentation, which obviously caught the judges’ eyes.”
Head of Department – Culinary Arts at St John’s College, Craig Ireland, said he and the boys are over the moon with their win. “The boys so deserve it. They have worked relentlessly and grabbed every spare moment to practice. Daniel and Sam have come up with their own ideas. They’ve started from scratch and their creativity and dedication is something to be really proud of. To have finally won is a testament to their passion for cooking.”
Leading the team of judges (which included some of the country’s top chefs), Mark Wylie highly respected chef and Culinary Services Manager at Compass Group, said the bar had been raised again in this year’s competition.
“Each year we see the competition standards raised as the event increases in profile, attracting larger numbers. The students’ skill levels were impressive, combined with contemporary ideas and professional practices. Our industry is in good hands if any of these students decide to move into hospitality as a career.
“The judges considered the St John’s College team’s dishes to be incredibly well thought out and constructed with great attention to provenance. Many of their ingredients told the story and evoked memories of gathering food locally. They served up restaurant quality meals, beautifully presented, beautiful tasting and cooked to a high level of craftsmanship.”
The team had to produce four portions of entrée and main meals in just 90 minutes. The dishes had to include New Zealand produced vegetables and chicken, with Silverbeet being the hero vegetable.
Molecular gastronomy was an impressive feature of the boys’ meals. The entrée titled “The city by the sea” incorporated silverbeet, Manuka smoked sun dried tomato duck egg tart, silverbeet spaghetti, truffle meringue, a silverbeet nutmeg mousse encased in a mozzarella balloon, squid ink coral sponge and beurre noisette of Snapper. The dish, which was served on a piece of slate, surrounded by river stones, drew on the inspiration of childhood fishing trips at Haumoana Beach where wild silverbeet used to grow on the banks. The smell of the sea was recreated using a combination of seawater and dry ice that released a fog and evoked the smell of salty sea air. A speaker was placed inside a shell that played sounds of the sea.
Sam and Daniel’s main “Chickens in Grandma’s garden” comprised of a cream cheese, herb, cashew nut mousse and cream cheese marshmallow stuffed organic chicken served with Bourbon Oak smoked mash potatoes, baby beetroot and carrots topped with a beetroot and lavender gel. The dish was served with a thyme, coriander, lemon and lavender scent to represent the smells from grandma’s garden.
The boys and their teacher will be flown to Sydney for an exclusive culinary experience, including a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the Sydney hospitality industry, dining at high profile restaurants, visiting some of Sydney’s vibrant food markets and more.
In addition, Sam and Daniel each received a $1,000 gift pack from vegetables.co.nz, City & Guilds, NZ Chicken, Southern Hospitality, 5+aDay and Potatoes NZ. City & Guilds awarded each student a $2000 scholarship towards their study of a City & Guilds International Catering Qualification, in a City & Guilds approved training centre of their choice.
St John’s College receives a $1,000 Bidvest voucher, an ANOVA Precision Cooker and a Blue Seal Evolution Series G504D – 600mm Gas Range Static Oven, worth $7,000.