S Pellegrino begins its search for the World’s Best Young Chef 2018CultureFood & DrinksNews & features
Asked to name the future of the food industry, foodies and enthusiasts tend to give a curiously uniform answer. The chef is almost always in their mid to late 20s, head chef at their own restaurant, it’s a “modern” experience without the formality of fine dining and their cooking is experimental but not yet fully polished. Their food is eminently photogenic, lighting up Instagram with their bright colours and beautiful presentation, even though it’s likely a handful of their followers will have actually tasted the food.
In reality, though, those aren’t the precocious young chefs. Their stars are already very much on the rise: it’s not exactly easy getting your own restaurant, much less getting people to have even the slightest clue who you are. The future, in many ways, lies in sous chefs, in talented men and women who are on the verge of something special. In other industries, we’re seeing that talent emerge younger and younger, through competition and social media, through online highlights and branding missions. For the world of cuisine, however, in many ways one already has to have been noticed to be noticed, or else put in a gruelling series of shifts in kitchens across the world, and we miss out on these precocious moments, the culinary equivalent of literary juvenilia. The S Pellegrino Young Chefs competition is looking to change that.
To be the best, young, successful applicants will need to produce a dish that places a special focus on: ingredients, skill, genius, beauty and message. The judges also mentioned the importance of seasonality and sustainability, two of the hottest topics in the food world right now, and successful entrants will need to carefully balance their entries around these concepts. It’s also a key part of what helped 2016’s winner, George Kataras, earn the title.
Kataras is in many ways the poster boy for what this competition offers young hopefuls. He doesn’t have his own restaurant, he’s not trailblazing his way across the culinary world in a seemingly unstoppable rise to eminence, he’s working at M Threadneedle Street. He’s one of thousands of chefs across the world with the talent, potential and drive to really make something of himself if given the opportunity, which is exactly what this competition offers.
That was the message at judge Angela Hartnett’s excellent Cafe Murano this week, where the panel – chefs Angela Hartnett, Phil Howard, Alyn Williams and Mickael Viljanen and Claude Bosi – met with a mixture of young chefs and press to officially open the 2017/18 competition. Fellow UK and Ireland judge Phil Howard knows it all too well, having once given a chance to a sensational young Australian after recognising his skill. That bright-eyed chef was Brett Graham and the chance was a restaurant in Notting Hill that has since risen to exceptionally lofty heights: The Ledbury. The idea that there is almost certainly another Graham out there, hidden away working in someone else’s kitchen, is a tantalising one; all they need is a chance.
Photos: Aron Klein
The 2017/18 S Pellegrino Young Chef competition signups are now open, and will remain open until 30th April 2017.
For further information about the S Pellegrino Young Chef Competition visit here.