Noosa turned on a stunning winter evening for a beach BBQ with some of Australia’s most respected food luminaries lending their support to celebrate and recognize the nation’s best up-and-coming chefs, waiters and restaurateurs.
Founded in 2005 by Luke Mangan and Lucy Allon, the Appetite for Excellence Awards recognises and rewards emerging talent with awards for outstanding young chefs, waiters and restaurateurs.
Noosa beach was turned into an outdoor restaurant with finalist working together to cook and serve invited guest including industry luminaries such as Luke Mangan, Peter Doyle, Peter Gilmore, Nick Hildebrandt, Christine Manfield, Lyndey Milan and Noosa’s own Danielle Gjestland, among others.
When asked about the decision to hold the awards in Noosa, co-founder Luke Mangan said “why not?”
“It’s beautiful! We’ve had good support from Noosa, we’ve had a Young Restaurateur up there in Danielle Gjestland from Wasabi; David Rayner is a good supporter of the program from Thomas Corner,” Luke said. “The produce is great, the beaches superb - it all makes sense and it’s a great regional area.”
Despite having 22 restaurants, multiple cookbooks and regular television appearances, Luke said he managed to come to Noosa three-four times a year, including for the Noosa Food & Wine Festival.
“My colleagues, which includes chefs and judges, were all excited by the great food and produce in Noosa so it’s definitely a destination for foodies,” he said.
Luke said the original catalyst for the awards program was to bring the industry together, to support young people, recognise emerging talent and to encourage and motivate them.
“Hopefully we also educate them along the way and get them to understand this is a long-term career decision,” he said. “We have a high drop-out rate with about 50 percent of young chefs quitting their apprenticeship before they can finish it.
“Maybe because on the outside it looks glamourous and great but when they get in there they have to wash potatoes, pots and pans. You’ve got to work your way up.
“There can be an expectation for younger kids that success happens overnight. It doesn’t. But if you stick with it, it can be so rewarding.”
Luke said the most satisfying thing for him was seeing young kids start as an apprentice and end up as head chef.
“We try to promote with so that the junior can see there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve got a Group Exec Chef in Asia who’s been with me for 20 years, he started with me as an apprentice; my head chef in Singapore has been with me for 10 years; and the one in Jakarta has been with me for 14 years.
“We have unearthed some truly extraordinary talent through the Appetite for Excellence program, and this year is certainly no different. The program is a stepping stone for great Australian talent and we've helped nurture future hospitality leaders.
“Plus there are great prizes and great opportunities.”
Project Director Phee Gardner said across a number of weeks the young chefs took part in cooking exercises (including mystery box challenges); young waiters demonstrated their service and knowledge skills; and young restaurateurs were quizzed on every aspect of their business.
“To make the finals is no mean feat and these really are the faces to watch across the industry, with winners recognised as the next generation of industry leaders who will be changing the culinary landscape,” she said.
Noosa nominees included staff from Wasabi and Locale with Clement Vachon from Wasabi as a state finalist for Young Chef of the Year; and Lara Graham, also from Wasabi as the state and national finalist for Young Waiter of the Year.
And the winners are:
Australian Young Waiter 2017 Andrew Gale; Grossi Florentino, VIC
Australian Young Chef 2017 Shui Ishizaka; Bennelong Restaurant, NSW
Australian Young Restaurateur 2017 Thi Le; Anchovy VIC
For more information visit: www.appetiteforexcellence.com