It was the occasion of the announcement of the jury of the Italy and South East Europe region of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2019-2020 on April 15, 2019 and it took place at Identità Golose Lab in Milan. A large group of hopeful and potential applicants of the current competition found themselves in front of star young chefs of the previous editions as well as world renowned chefs. Here they shared their personal experiences post-S.Pellegrino Young Chef, the value and importance of the competition, as well as useful guidance for composing a winning signature dish.
The key messages from those present was focussed around the growth opportunity that goes beyond the competition, as well as the inclusiveness of the talent platform that renders it unique from any other chef contest in the world.
3 Young Chefs, 3 Unique Paths
Yasuhiro Fujio, winner of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018, was glad to share the reasoning behind choosing certain ingredients for his winning dish. He had chosen an ayu fish as the fundamental ingredient of his signature dish, which perfectly “represented the mentality and culture of Japan.” He emphasised the importance of selecting the right ingredients that can explain who you are. He spoke of the opportunities thanks to the contest, how he had been able to travel to places such as Ireland, Russia, Finland, Italy and France to participate in S.Pellegrino Young Chef events and more. “It made it possible to meet people in the food industry, not just chefs, and access the networks,” he said.
Then there was Elizabeth Puquio Landeo, winner of Latin America Region and Fine Dining Lovers People’s Choice Award 2018, a female representative amongst the three young chefs present. She was especially keen to discuss the opportunity the competition can provide to females who are yet under-represented in the industry. Landeo expressed how she wanted “more females to be encouraged”, following her example, which, was a sentiment shared by many, including S.Pellegrino (the new rules since the 2020 edition implemented equal gender representation requirements in an attempt to address the imbalance).
Landeo also praised the “incredible learning experience” she has had so far in such a short period of time, as well as the ability to travel all over the world. Her dish that won her the Regional Finals of Latin America was also composed of a fish, but as opposed to the rare ayu of Fujio, hers was a popular mackerel that reminded her of her childhood that is eaten with ingredients that are unique to her land.
The winner of the Italy Region 2018, Edoardo Fumagalli also explained how the competition had acted as a career booster. For him, S.Pellegrino Young Chef “is a real opportunity to get to know others, and also yourself,” that allows chefs to “tighten the connections beyond the competition.” He emphasised that it is “not the end, but the occasion to start doing things well.” He went on to discuss his dish which was based on Carabinieri shrimp, frosted sweetbreads and crispy algae: ingredients that hold a special place in his heart that got him through to the final stage.
The Mentor Chefs’ Professional Insights
The young chefs were joined by chefs Cristina Bowerman, Davide Oldani and Anthony Genovese, three renowned culinary professionals who have participated in the past editions of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef. As mentors and jury members providing valuable guidance to participants, they took to the current occasion to share some extra career and competition insights.
Chef Bowerman in particular highlighted the inclusiveness and fairness of S.Pellegrino Young Chef: “This is a democratic competition; this is for everyone – including women – to try. It gives the opportunity to anyone, looking at the techniques, skills, the dish, regardless of gender or background” she said. For Bowerman, who has had a very diverse career path, (a chef was not her first, nor second career) value can be found in any experience, both positive or negative, the key is believing that “there are no barriers, and to think that everything is possible.”
Star chef Oldani further commented on how he believes in S.Pellegrino’s competition that, in his opinion, is followed by a truly professional group of individuals that represent the gastronomy world. “If I’d had this type of opportunity 30 years ago, it would have changed my career immensely.”
S.Pellegrino Young Chef is “a great opportunity to represent your country,” according to chef Genovese, who also underlined the importance of balancing innovation and tradition in a dish: “you mustn’t forget your true identity and represent it well.”
Also present was Matteo Berti of the prestigious cooking school ALMA, whose experts take part as judges of the preliminary selections process. He discussed the importance of choosing the right products for the signature dish to the audience, many of whom were young chefs who had so far applied for or were in the process of applying for the current competition.
“A chef makes people fall in love with a product because he is able to transmit his love of the product. This is how you create culture… go deeper, go and understand the product and its producers,” he said.
The Jury of Italy and South East Europe Regional Finals
The fourth edition of the competition that promotes young chefs on the international scene was marked by the first, big news: the presence of chef judges not only from Italy, but also from other countries included in the region of reference, namely from Romania, Slovenia and Croatia.
The ten regional finalists of this region will be judged by Pino Cuttaia (La Madia, Licata), Matias Perdomo (Contraste, Milan), Antonia Klugmann (L'Argine in Vencò, Dolegna del Collio - Gorizia), Marianna Vitale (Sud Ristorante, Quarto - Naples), Janez Bratovž (JB Restaurant, Ljubljana, the first Slovenian chef to join the 51-100 list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants), Ana Grgić (celebrity chef of the Zinfandel's Restaurant in Zagreb, former judge of MasterChef Croatia) and the Romanian chef and patron of the Bistro de l'Arte in Brasov, Transylvania, Oana Coantă.
The seven chefs of the jury will choose the regional representative on the occasion of the final scheduled in Milan on October 21st 2019: the winner will thus gain access to the international final of 2020, where he will have to confront the finalists of the other 11 competing regions.
Read more about S.Pellegrino Young Chef and S.Pellegrino’s belief in nurturing and supporting young culinary talent, and follow all the exciting developments in the competition as they happen on S.Pellegrino’s Instagram and Facebook pages with #SPYoungChef