Young chefs demonstrate their skills in fine-dining cuisine

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The Chane des Rtisseurs held its annual Jeunes Commis mystery basket cooking competition in all of its regions in South Africa simultaneously on 15 March. The young chefs competed to enter the national finals in KwaZulu-Natal at the end of May, with the overall winner going on to compete in the international competition in Helsinki in Finland in September.

The Chane des Rtisseurs, an international association with many hundreds of years of history, upholds the traditions of fine-dining, as well as the art and science of food. Although the chefs are juniors, they all work for top establishments and are expected to deliver high standards of culinary knowledge, preparation skills, creativity, taste and presentation in their competition dishes.

The competition coincides with the regional sommelier winners, which are also listed below.

Winner for the various regions are as follows:

- Johannesburg: chef Stacey Lee Chan from Jodi-Ann's Food Design Agency; sommelier Francois Krone from Saxon

- Pretoria: chef Juan Fourie from Roots Restaurant at Forum Homini; sommelier Milton Makhaza from Mount Grace Country House and Spa

- Lowveld: chef Wynand Reiman from Singita Lebombo Lodge; sommelier Christopher Ford from Singita

- KwaZulu-Natal: chef Brent Assam from Durban Country Club; sommelier Thato Goimane from Oyster Box Hotel

- Outeniqua: chef Serushia Naidoo from Hunters Country House; no sommelier entry

- Western Cape: chef Beau du Toit from Overture Restaurant; sommelier Kris Snyman from Overture

The mystery basket consisted of a whole chicken, one piece of foie gras, two whole trout, one punnet of blueberries, 200g fresh goat's cheese and one red pepper. An assortment of non-mandatory items was available from a communal table.

The Johannesburg competition had as senior professional judges Stephen Billingham, president of the South African Chefs Association (SACA); Stefano Strafella from Strafella's restaurant at The Falstaff; Martin Kobald, honorary president of SACA; Walter Ulz, owner of Linger Longer restaurant in Johannesburg; and Manfred Muellers from the School of Tourism of Hospitality at the University of Johannesburg.

Many other chefs, restaurateurs and industry members were among the judges, including Susan Reynard, Gauteng editor of Hotel & Restaurant.

The winning menu for Johannesburg by Stacey Lee Chan demonstrated the high standards of creativity and flavour innovation being seen in top establishments:

- Entre: Lemon and parsley crusted trout on a bed of confit pepper, panfried prawn with a goat's cheese and chive emulsion

- Main course: Crown roasted chicken with a white wine braised chicken tortellini, spinach puree, salad of beans and carrots, seared foie gras and chicken jus

- Dessert: Dark chocolate tart, with a chocolate and blueberry truffle cream, vanilla bean soaked sponge and a raspberry and tarragon compote

Contestants in the Jeunes Sommelier competition, which also took place on 15 March, had to undergo a comprehensive two-hour written exam. They had to have a solid knowledge of wines and spirits, decanting and serving, and be between the ages of 21 and 35.

These contestants are also members of the Chaine, as is required in these Jeunes competitions.

The Jeunes Sommelier national competition takes place on 20 May in KwaZulu-Natal and the winner will go on to compete in Spain in September.

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