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Countdown to final cook off

Countdown to final cook off

21 August 2015: Excitement is building as New Zealand's most promising teenage chefs prepare to put their culinary skills to the test at the final of the National Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge (NSSCC).

The winning duos from 10 regional NSSCC events are now busy finessing their dishes ready for the 90-minute challenge at Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT), Auckland on Friday, August 28.

The students will go head to head in a live cook-off preparing, cooking and presenting an individually plated entree and main course all within 90-minutes. To add to the challenge locally grown beetroot must feature in the entree, with chicken and seasonal fresh New Zealand grown vegetables key ingredients of the main dish.

Finalists Michala Rei and Wiki Mackey from Porirua College are excited about competing in the event. "We're looking forward to competing in the final, it will be a new experience for us and we've spent every weekend since the regional event practising. One big challenge is getting the dishes just right," Michala says.

"Competing will give us a taste of what it's like to actually work in the industry, which is important for our future careers. Where would I like to be working in 5 years? Around the world."

The duos will be scored across a number of criteria - food preparation, hygiene, presentation, taste and the use of New Zealand grown vegetables and chicken.

Judges at the NSSCC 2015 final are:

· Chief Judge, Chef Mark Wylie of Cater Plus: National and international award winning chef who has a keen interest in nurturing youth within the industry. He has trained many chefs over the years to reach great success in competitions.

· Ben Bayly: Chef at Baduzzi and The Grove restaurants in Auckland and judge on TVNZ's hit show MKR NZ.

· John Kelleher: AUT University Senior Lecturer - Professional Cookery. John has lived and worked around the world in restaurants and has led many AUT culinary teams to gold medal sucess at national competitions.

· Craig Lucas: Chef Lecturer at Manukau Institute of Technology's Culinary School (MIT) and an experienced Auckland hotel chef.

· Jeremy Schmid: Owner/Chef at The Officer's Mess at Fort Takapuna and author of 'Bangers to Bacon' and 'Smoked'.

With the best secondary school students poised to show their talent and flair at the final, John Kelleher, Judge, is definitely looking forward to judging the event. "I love their enthusiasm, they're always well practiced and passionate about doing their best."

As part of the challenge students are tasked with using chicken and fresh, seasonal New Zealand vegetables - including beetroot - as key ingredients in their dishes, a challenge John says they are rising to.

"I think students of their age are now learning how to treat fresh vegetables with respect with the aim of showcasing them in the best possible way. It’s good to have chicken as the main protein as this requires not only hygienic work practices, but also appropriate cooking methods and cooking to safe temperatures," John says.

"I hope to see this year's teams achieve well in their understanding of cooking fundamentals and that they incorporate modern plating techniques."

John has judged previous events and says the standard is always fantastic. "Many dishes are certainly up to industry standard, in fact I would be happy to pay for these meals at a restaurant."

The winning duo each receives a $2,000 study scholarship and a trip to Tahiti to represent New Zealand at the ISSCC. Their school receives a $1,000 Bidvest voucher and a Blue Seal turbofan oven and stand from Moffat New Zealand.


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