SIT young chefs achieve silver and bronze medals in regional competition
Publish Date: Wednesday, 3 July 2024
SIT young chefs achieve silver and bronze medals in regional competition
SIT Cookery students, Sam Kissell (left) and Yari Mowatt performed successfully under pressure at the recent South Island Regional Cook-off of the Nestlé Golden Chef's Hat Award in Christchurch. Miss Mowatt achieved a silver medal, and Mr Kissell achieved a bronze medal, as well as a being the first winner of a newly introduced award for ‘Most Innovative Use of Coffee’.
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Southern Institute of Technology Cookery students, Yari Mowatt and Sam Kissell recently tasted success at the 2024 South Island Regional Cook-off of the Nestlé Golden Chef's Hat Award, coming away with silver and bronze medals, as well as a brand new award for innovation with coffee. 

Held at Ara Institute of Canterbury in Christchurch on June 12th, it was Miss Mowatt’s second year of competing; she relished the opportunity to return and achieve the silver medal. Having just completed the Diploma in Culinary Excellence (Level 5), she said “I’ve been working very hard all year; it’s been a long journey.” Miss Mowatt cooked and presented chicken roulade filled with spinach and mushroom duxelles, mashed potato with leeks, manuka honey caramelised carrots, chicken jus with coffee beans, and beetroot-fried tuile.

The judges noted a big improvement with Miss Mowatt’s dish presentation and performance from the previous year. This post-contest feedback is invaluable for the young chefs as they discuss strengths, weaknesses, and how to improve their dishes. Miss Mowatt acknowledged she faced different pressures this time. “There were more competitors this year, 12 in total, with two heats, so there were six people cooking with me; you lose time.” And the kitchen layout was different to the SIT training kitchen, where they had put in time perfecting their dishes. She also had to overcome some nerves, but she loves the competition. “I love competing with Golden Chef ... the judges are amazing.”

Miss Mowatt enjoyed having another student to practise with this year and being able to give Mr Kissell a heads-up about the competition. They shared a passion for cooking. “It was good for both of us. We practised together and even though we were competitors, we respected and helped each other with our dishes, it was really encouraging,” she said.

With the competition open to eligible students and young chefs aged 16 to 24 years Miss Mowatt is eligible for one more year. “I’m still thinking about competing one more time,” she said, adding her two years at SIT has been huge for her self-development. “I started at almost zero when I came to New Zealand... it’s been hard but it’s been great.” Now in full-time work at The Langlands, “We will see what the future holds for me,” she said.

Mr Kissell, aged 19, has recently completed the New Zealand Certificate in Cookery (Level 4) and it was his first time at the competition. “I heard about it through Yari ... it was good to ask questions, to know what to expect. I wanted to push myself further out of my comfort zone and see what I could do.” Mr Kissell’s results speak for themselves; he won a bronze medal, as well as the newly introduced, regional South Island award for ‘Most Innovative Use of Coffee’. Combining coffee and smoked paprika in a rub for his main course of chicken breast, was a winning combination, accompanied by braised leek, cumin-roasted carrot puree, parsley mashed potato, crispy carrot peels and blistered cherry tomatoes with basil. The dessert course was a white chocolate and coconut bavarois with a coffee and cinnamon poached pear, coffee jelly, toasted macadamia brittle and a pear reduction.

“I was pretty happy with how I did for the first time,” Mr Kissell said, acknowledging how nervous he felt to begin with. “I just had to put my head down and focus.”  The other competitors had a bit more experience, but he really enjoyed meeting chefs all of a similar age to him. “I definitely want to try again next year.” The practices at SIT beforehand were great preparation. “I think I would’ve really struggled [otherwise],”  he added. Mr Kissell works part-time at Invercargill bakery, The Urban Kitchen, and will continue his studies in September with the New Zealand Diploma in Cookery (Advanced).

SIT Hospitality / Cookery Programme Manager, Glenn Stridiron, said all the team in the School of Hospitality are very proud of the awards achieved by Sam and Yari. “It’s  great to see their passion and interest in furthering their skills and knowledge. It’s also a testament to the staff in the School of Hospitality, who have supported the students on their culinary journey.”