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Serving up success

14 September 2022
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Young Christchurch talent Gabby Sanders has taken out the top title in a prestigious trans-Tasman culinary battle for her triple gold winning dishes. Words Hannah Brown

Cantabrian Gabby Sanders, 23, has taken out the 2022 Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Award after competing at the grand finals in Melbourne, representing the South Island.

Gabby, who works at The Monday Room in Christchurch and studies culinary arts at the Ara Institute of Canterbury, went up against 11 of the best young chef talent from across Australia and New Zealand to compete for the 2022 award.

Delivering a menu of triple gold winning dishes, she served up an entrée of leek, potato and smoked beurre blanc, nori and hazelnuts, a main of glazed pork, caramelised soy dumpling and Asian pork jus, and a chai spice cake, with caramel, coffee, walnut, pear and white chocolate for dessert.

Her dishes were judged on professional practice, presentation and the all-important taste factor, by experts from NZChefs and the Australian Culinary Federation.

After competing in the regional heats held across Australia and New Zealand, Gabby secured her spot to represent the South Island in the grand finals.

Another Kiwi competitor, Olive Ona from Rotorua, also participated in the event where she represented the North Island and won two silver and one gold medal.

03 dessert 1
Gabby's dessert dish

Gabby says she was elated with the title win and $10,000 cash prize, which serves as solid recognition of the hard work and effort she put into juggling work and study commitments, while also preparing for the competition.

“I’m passionate about food which my parents encouraged from an early age and I’m committed to constantly pushing myself to achieve excellence as a chef,” she says.

Gabby says she first started out working in a supermarket where she was encouraged by a chef to train formally.

“That suggestion was a catalyst for change as it led me on to study at Ara Institute of Canterbury and ultimately pick up the challenge of competing on a live stage.”

It's not the first time that a New Zealander has won the prestigious award. In 2020, Kiwi chef Sam Heaven took out the top spot when Nestlé Professional New Zealand first became involved in the event.

Head judge and Nestlé professional commercial development chef Elke Travers says the award can only be won by the chef that demonstrates absolute attention to every detail, and that Gabby rose to the challenge by creating a flawlessly executed and perfectly balanced menu that showcased her technical skills.

Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Award is Australia’s longest running culinary competition for young chefs, now in its 57th year of supporting emerging culinary talent.

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