Medals and accolades came thick and fast for NZMA students at this year’s NZChefs National Salon – the largest hospitality competition in the country.
The four day event, which draws the crème de la crème of hospitality professionals and chefs from around New Zealand, took place at the ASB Showgrounds last weekend, with NZMA students battling it out in a wide range of categories.
NZMA’s scooped nine gold medals in total. Six of those went to those in Culinary Arts, along with two Best in Shows. Chef tutor Henrietta Agarwal won gold for her spectacular celebration cake - a chandelier dangling from a hook, dripping in shiny edible crystals. Meanwhile student Deepak Billa earned gold and Best in Show for his Innovative Café Salad, Michael Long won gold for his Maori-inspired Seafood Dish and Zhuobin Wu (Benji) and Qing Dong (Anita) – pictured here - both took home gold medals for their Live Desserts.
For the first time ever an NZMA student entered the Margarine Sculpting Buffet Showpiece Static event - and won it hands down with a gold medal and Best in Show. Weitao Wang (Max) created the incredible ‘Thinking Chef’, which stands 1.2 metres tall and weighs in at 140kgs. What’s even more incredible about this win is that Max is a total newcomer to the world of food sculpting. Up until about three weeks before the competition he’d never even laid eyes on margarine!
“It was the first time I’ve ever used margarine so there was quite a bit of trial and error with my Thinking Chef. It ended up taking me nearly 200 hours to create, and around 70 of those hours were spent working on the finer details like fingernails, and the veins in his hands,” said Max.
“I really enjoyed the process though, and once I got used to it I loved the feel of working with the margarine, as it is actually quite easy to manipulate.”
Max’s sculpture depicts the power of a chef, in regards to both mental creativity and physical strength. Sitting on a stack of pots and wearing a chef’s hat, this culinary master is even wearing Crocs!
NZMA hospitality students also did their tutors proud. Vu Thuy Nga Pham earned gold for her Napkin Folding and Jut Foung Lai (Michael) and Hai Son Nguyen (Jackie) were NZMA’s undisputed cocktail kings. Michael was awarded gold in Classic Cocktails and Jackie won gold in the Innovative Cocktail category, with his incredibly creative ‘Streets of Da Nang’, made of beef stock, chilli sauce, fish sauce bitters, lemon grass, kaffir lime, coriander, grapefruit, lime, vodka and sherry.
“Da Nang in Vietnam is my hometown, and my drink is inspired by my favourite hometown food Bun Bo, which is spicy beef noodles,” said Jackie.
“When I was a child I used to eat it every morning at my aunties shop, and I wanted to try and recreate those flavours in a cocktail. It took a lot of attempts to get the balance of flavours right, especially the sweet and sour, and the bitter and spicy, but we got there in the end. It felt so good when I found out I’d won gold!”
NZMA students also brought home 13 silver medals and 9 bronze medals, and NZMA graduate Suchit Chettri was named Cocktail Bartender of the Year.
“Everyone did an outstanding job and we are extremely proud of what they’ve all achieved,” said NZMA Sylvia Park Campus Manager for Hospitality & Business Nishat Elavia.
“The NZChefs National Salon is such an excellent platform for trainees and professionals to test their skills against others in the industry, and NZMA students were certainly up there with the best!”