The town of Timaru is one hour north of Oamaru, and is home to the Aoraki Polytech, a school that teaches a range of courses including a full spectrum of cooking and hospitality courses for would-be chefs, restaurateurs and hoteliers. The head of the cooking school is Stephen Le Corre, who is also the captain of the New Zealand Culinary Team, so it was very fitting that Aoraki Polytech be the venue for the 2013 Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs competition, organised by the New Zealand chapter of the Paris-based Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.
If you are not familiar with la Chaîne, it was founded in 1248 (yes, twelve-forty-eight!) as the guild of goose roasters in France, and over time it became the general roasting guild that served the royal family and the nobility of France. In 1793, with the French Revolution abolishing the guilds and the royal families, la Chaîne was disbanded, only to be revived in 1950 by a group of five French gourmands (Prince Curnonsky, Auguste Becart, Jean Valby, Louis Giraudon and Marcel Dorin) who wished to revive the arts of the table after the devastation of World War Two in Europe. Since then la Chaîne has become an international society, with members around the world in 44 countries, with members comprising both chefs and hoteliers as well as non-professional members who simply appreciate good food and company.
There were five competitors in this year’s competition, coming from Wellington, Mt. Cook, and Christchurch, and as in all Chaîne competitions this one required them to prepare three dishes from a ‘black box’ of ingredients. Some of these ingredients were mandatory (such as salmon for the starter and lamb for the main) while others were optional (including lamb’s brain and tongue). The contestants were required to use no less than 50% of each of the mandatory ingredients presented to them, and would also be marked down for wasting ingredients that they helped themselves to from the common pantry but failed to use completely.
The tasting judges were three members of the Chaîne in New Zealand, Peter Besseling of Wellington, who is the president of the national chapter and a lecturer at the Wellington Institute of Technology; Rebecca Rosie of Christchurch, who is with the Canterbury Club; and James Glucksman of Oamaru, who is the secretary of the national chapter and chef-owner at Pen-y-bryn Lodge.
Each contestant had three hours to prepare their menus and cook the dishes, which were judged on the basis of taste, originality and presentation. The contestants would also be judged on their performance in the kitchen on the basis of cleanliness and organisation. In the end, all five contestants produced some truly excellent dishes, including some very inventive plates using unusual preparations and skilful techniques. The winner won by only a small margin, since the scores were remarkably close, and she will head to Durban in 2014 to vie with the winners of the other national competitions to select the one international Jeune Chef Rôtisseur for 2014. We of course wish her all the luck in the world!
Below are some photographs of the competition. Thanks should also be extended to the generous sponsors of the competition: Silverfern Farms (lamb), Regal Salmon (salmon), Moffat, Nevis Bluff Winery, Southern Hospitality, and Meadows Mushrooms. And here are the menus:
Contestant 1: Regal Salmon Two Ways: Skin-on Pavé with Fennel Mash and Salmon Fillet with Melba Toast Served with Tomato Concassé and Marinated Feta; Silver Fern Rack of Lamb Served with Lamb Tongue Tortellini, Sautéed Mushrooms, Fresh Asparagus and Red Wine Jus; Mixed Berry and Walnut Parfait served on Dark Chocolate Ganache with Tuille, Salted Chocolate Stick and Fresh Grapes.
Contestant 2: Beetroot Cured Salmon, Crispy Flat Mushrooms, Vanilla Mayo and Rhubarb; Rolled Lamb, Sautéed Asparagus, Olive-Stuffed Gnocchi, Tomato Salsa and Thyme Jus; Chocolate Tart with Apple & Fennel Salad, Goat Cheese Cake and Candied Walnuts, Crème Anglaise.
Contestant 3: Pan-fried Salmon, Citrus-Marinated Belly, Orange Fennel Salad, Goats Cheese and Herb Dressing; Roasted Lamb Rack, Mushroom Marmalade, Potato Purée, Sauté Asparagus, Walnut Celery Salad; Dark Chocolate Brownie, Shortbread Crumbs, Berry Coulis.
Contestant 4: Pan-Seared Salmon, Poached Rhubarb, Steamed Clams, Asparagus Tips; Sumac-Rubbed Lamb, Berry Jus, Potato Fondant, Roast Beetroot, Mushroom and Feta Crumb; Dark Chocolate Bavarois, Salted Caramel Banana, Walnut Crumbs.
Contestant 5: Marinated Leaves of Regal Salmon with Clam, Fennel, Grapefruit and Basil Salad, Avocado and Feta Cream, Apple, Sesame and Crisp Skin; Silver Fern Lamb Cutlets with Mustard and Olive Rub, on Mushroom and Blue Cheese Duxelle, Potato and Pumpkin Dauphine with Walnut, Grilled Asparagus, Roast Pepper Salad and Red Wine Jus; Whittaker’s Chocolate Mousse with Ginger, Orange and Grape Salad, Mixed Berry Coulis and Vanilla Cream-Filled Eclairs.