Culinary competition recognises young talent

The head of The Hurst Campus, Rebecca Hurst, centre, with her winning students, Rebecca Odendaal and Nicola Swart, who also won the Best Witlof Starter category.

The Hurst Campus has for the second year running, won The One&Only Reaching for Young Stars culinary competition in the top category of Duo of Chefs.

Rebecca Hurst, founder and head of The Hurst Campus, says that this achievement comes at a fortuitous time as the Cape Winelands based “super cool culinary school” celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Rebecca Odendaal and Nicola Swart outsmarted students from no less than 10 other top culinary academies in the Cape in the Duo of Chefs category, and also won the Best Witlof Starter category, with their dish Gorgonzola mousse, blue cheese and smoked walnut crumble, silky pear gelée and cubes, Parma ham crisp, and olive oil brushed witlof/endive.

In addition, amid stiff competition in which the two talented young chefs teamed up with wine steward Luvuyo Tshazibane and winemaker DeWet Viljoen of Neethlingshof, the team took a proud second place in the Food and Wine Pairing category.

Graduating from The Hurst Campus this year, Rebecca, 19, is from Zimbawe originally, and completed her internship at La Bon Vivant in Franschhoek.

Paarl resident Nicola, 22, completed her internship at Terroir outside Stellenbosch.

Their prizes include a five-month contract to gain working experience in the USA at the Winslow Tavern in Cape Cod (Massachusetts), including air tickets, accommodation and a monthly salary.

Highly rated by international food and travel guides and Trip Advisor, the 170-seater restaurant is operated by fellow South Africans, chef patrons Phillip and Tracey Hunt, and an international brigade of highly skilled chefs producing an all-American seasonal menu heavily influenced by coastal cuisine.

It is the second time that The Hurst Campus took top honours in this esteemed competition. Last year Lukas Wiese and Andrew Barnard won the same category of Duo of Chefs, and walked away as winners of the Lancewood Best Dessert prize too.

Andrew completed his internship at Mosaic Restaurant and is currently working at the Fusion Mia Resort in Vietnam.

Lukas, who did his internship at Waterkloof Restaurant outside Somerset West, is staying on in the USA after a summer in Cape Cod to work at the Stratton Mountain Resort for the winter ski season.

Curated by Showcook industry stalwarts Annette Kesler and Chania Morritt-Smith, the annual One&Only Reaching for Young Stars initiative is now in its seventh year.

It is widely recognised as the top culinary event for student chefs and wine stewards.

Congratulating the two winners, Annette said: “Ability, brains and beauty… what a combination!”

The 11 competing culinary institutes put forward their finest young stars to compete for top honours in the cook-off.

The young candidates teamed up with 11 top hotels and 11 wineries to pair their creative menus using specific South African products. Led by Reuben Riffel, a panel of 11 top ‘Food & Wine’ luminaries in the hospitality industry judged the Cook-Off this year, including Aubrey Ngcungama, Carolyn Miller-Krogh, Craig Hibbert, Horst Frehse, Julietta é Silva, Luvo Ntezo, Marieta Human, Mariëtte Crafford, Marlvin Gwese and Penelope Horwood.