Chefs from around the country gathered at the Unilever Food Solutions head office to cook their hearts out yesterday (6 September) in the annual Chef of the Year competition! With three categories (Junior, Senior and Team of 4) the Unilever Food Solutions Chef of the Year is the longest—running culinary competition of its kind in South Africa, and has been recognising culinary talent for over 40 years. This year was no different, with the competition providing a platform for the six finalists in each category to show their peers what they’re made of.
The winner in the Senior category, winning R15 000 was Jean-Pierre Lenferna de la Motte of the Lord Charles Hotel in Cape Town whose dishes were Seafood croquette, tomato and red pepper chutney with salmon ceviche and smoked garlic aioli, followed by Slow-braised duck with roast cauliflower purée, seasonal veg and crispy duck skin, and Tiramisu mousse with chocolate sponge and almond nougatine. Second Place went to Deon Kemp from Butlers Hillcrest, and third place went to Kirstin Hellemann from the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel.
Not only winning R10 000, but also a trip to Nice to work with Chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen in his Michelin-starred restaurant JAN, was Terror Lekopa from the Saxon Hotel. His starter of pan fried kingklip, tomato mayonnaise, carrot purée, pickled radishes, tomato sponge and lemon and herb cream, which was presented alongside seared ostrich, parmesan croquette, cauliflower purée, roasted beetroot and red wine demi-glace, and baked cheesecake, lemon sorbet, orange curd and passion fruit jelly. Coming second was Fernanda Cardosa from Chef’s Warehouse & Canteen Bree Street, and in third place was Caryn Fredericks from Woolworths South Africa.
Winning the Team of 4 category was Willem van der Merwe’s team from the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa. In second place was Ivory Manor from Johannesburg, and third place Durban Country Club. Head judge Garth Shnier, internationally recognised judge and consultant chef, says, “We saw exceptional modern presentation in the Junior dishes, incorporating linear presentation, clean lines and dishes cooked to near perfection. Today, everything was well-rounded on the starters and mains and the quality was at a level far above the expectation of Juniors, which bodes well for South Africa’s future as a global tourist destination. The Senior category was extremely closely contested, with the kitchen scores separating the top three. The Team of 4 displayed five-stars in food, presentation and service, which exemplifies the nature of this category.”
Junior and Senior finalists were required to prepare a three-course menu to serve three people using a vast communal table of premium quality fish and meat products, seasonal fruit and vegetables and a minimum of 10 compulsory Unilever Food Solutions products, as well as a pantry of other ingredients. The Team of 4 finalists prepared a three-course menu for eight people, including wine pairing and themed table décor. Each dish was judged on its preparation, presentation and taste.
Shnier concludes, “The Unilever Food Solutions Chef of the Year sets the bar higher and higher each year, staging what is truly an exceptional example of a competition that challenges chefs to greater heights through its professional standards. This competition is vital for the development of culinary standards in South Africa.”
Remco Bol, Managing Director of Unilever Food Solutions South Africa concludes, “We are exceptionally proud to be able to provide this platform to the chefs of South Africa and we salute Chefs Jean-Pierre de la Motte, Terror Lekota and the Team of 4 winners, along with all the competitors on the commitment, talent and skill displayed today.”