Following an intense ninety-minute cook-off at the NZ Hospitality Championships in Auckland on the weekend, Wellington’s Liam Wilkie has been awarded the prestigious ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef title.
The award recognises the outstanding achievement of aspiring chefs who craft a professional career by learning as they earn in a real commercial kitchen, with all the demands and pressures for excellent standards that the fast-paced environment brings.
Liam beat off three other highly talented finalists with his delicious ‘Taste of New Zealand’ dish: a sumac crusted loin of venison, burnt orange kumara and butter puree, honey-glazed baby golden beetroots, sherry glazed baby carrots and beetroot tuiles.
Inspiration for his signature dish came from his love of game hunting in the hills around Taranaki, says Liam.
“When I was growing up I hunted for possum, red deer and rabbits. I really enjoyed making dishes with the food I got for my family which is another reason I love cooking.”
The 22-year-old is perfecting his skills to be a professional chef at the Copthorne’s upscale One80º Restaurant overlooking Oriental Bay in Wellington.
Winning the coveted title is made even more exciting with a very special prize – an all-expenses paid trip to the famous Melbourne Food & Wine Festival in 2019.
The inspiring week-long experience will give Liam a taster of his main career goal for becoming a chef: to travel the world discovering the authentic cuisine and exotic flavours of other countries.
Liam got his first taste for what he wanted to do in life when he was 12 years-old helping to prep food for weddings and events at a family friend’s catering business in his hometown of Hawera.
The job inspired him to study cookery and he was lucky enough to go straight from his hospitality course at high school into a cookery apprenticeship at the Copthorne Hotel.
Like his competitors for the title – Reece Jesson from Five stags in Pirongia, Brooklyn O’Neil from Brew’d Boulcott in Wellington, and Lorraine Va’afusuaga from The Old Vicarage Café Restaurant in Christchurch – he is carving out a chef’s career by training on-job with ServiceIQ’s New Zealand Cookery Apprenticeship programme, the only one of its kind in the country.
ServiceIQ Hospitality Sector Manager Caro Anderson congratulates Liam who will soon complete his apprenticeship.
“His passion combined with impressive skills, knowledge and sheer tenacity is a prime example of the high-level of professionalism that can be achieved with the apprenticeship programme. We are extremely proud to have helped him craft his career. He clearly has a fantastic future ahead of him,” says Caro.
The winning ‘Taste of New Zealand’ dish: a sumac crusted loin of venison, burnt orange kumara and butter puree, honey-glazed baby golden beetroots, sherry glazed baby carrots and beetroot tuiles.