Following a day of outstanding performances at Tonic in Melbourne on 11 September, John Rivera was announced as the winner of the Pacific region S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 local competition, and will advance to the Grand Finale in June 2018 in Milan, Italy.
The Chef de Partie from Restaurant Amaru in Armdale, Australia, finished ahead of nine of the region’s most talented rising chefs, with his signature dish entitled ‘Sinigang’ featuring Hapuka and tomato, calamansi and taro.
Each of the 10 local semi-finalists competing were hand-selected by ALMA, the world’s leading international educational and training centre for Italian cuisine.
A distinguished jury of chefs, namely Andrew McConnell, Paul Carmichael, Scott Pickett, Christine Manfield and Jacques Reymond tasted and evaluated each of the semi-finalists’ dishes based on their adherence to the competition’s five “Golden Rules”: ingredients, skill, genius, beauty and message.
The judges commented: “We were unified in our decision. The standard has risen from previous years. John was very prepared, focused, and meticulous in his approach. John’s dish showed a depth of flavour and a fully rounded approach, he articulated the cultural heritage of his dish in a precise and warm manner. Every element of the dish was perfect.”
Rivera’s Sinigang dish is a reinterpretation of the traditional hot and sour Filipino soup, with a flavour profile complemented with smoked tamarind and created with incredible Australian produce. The Hapuka was steamed and served with taro that had been cooked in coconut cream and turned into a silky puree. The calamansi (lime leaf) oil brought the dish to life.
“This competition means a lot for young chefs and Filipinos in my generation, who are looking for their heritage and ways to show it in their food. We need to go out there and fly our flag – the world is ready for us. There are many South East Asian nations that have recognition, and the Philippines is the final frontier. This opportunity wouldn’t have come to me in the Philippines. That is the great thing about Australia: they have given us all the platform.”
John Rivera will now have until June 2018 to perfect and hone his dish under the mentorship of chef Scott Pickett. The chef and restaurateur from Melbourne will also accompany the young chef to the Grand Finale in Milan where he will face off against 20 other world finalists, with the ambition of being selected, as the best young chef in the world.