2018 National JCR Young Chefs Awards Dinner

Young chefs recently battled it out at, initially regional level where I had been asked by La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and Le Cordon Bleu as a non-professional member to be a judge, then the young chefs went on to compete nationally. The winner Aaron Engeler (below) will now be able to compete in the international competition.

(Top Left: All the participants with Norman Harrison Bailli Délégué la Chaîne des Rotisseurs Australia with Andrew Crispin Conseiller Culinaire la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, Crown Culinarium. Bottom Left: Norman Harrison, Bailli Délégué la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Australia  with Ken de Mallindine Bailli Victoria la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs of Le Cordon Bleu Australia. On Right: Aaron Engeler, 2018 Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Young Chef Competition 1st Prize winner).

The Awards dinner was at 28 Skybar & Lounge, Crown Metropol, with a fabulous back-drop of the city from up in the clouds, on Friday April 6, 2018 at 7pm. We enjoyed a four course dinner with paired wines but the showstopper was the sphere which melted when the sauce was poured over it exposing the fruits within. WOW WOW WOW!!!!

(Canapés:  On left: Crab cigar, celeriac, fresh apples, bread crisp. On Right: Grilled asparagus, semi-dried tomato cones).

(The set-up: Awards and menu)

(Top left: Entree: Cured king Fish, ‘La Luna’ goat cheese, beet foam. Bottom left – Main course: Eye Fillet, onion gratinate, du Puy lentils and vegetable waffle. Dessert: The show stopper: Golden chocolate sphere, nougat parfait, berries popping candies with hot raspberry sauce).  

Aaron was born in Sydney moved to Lithgow early on and did his apprenticeship from the age of 15 yrs. Then went on to work 60-70 hours per week for $400 at Emirates (now known as One & Only Wolgan Valley) which is a 6 Star in Sydney’s West working with a multi-national team with everything including the bread and butter being made in house. In his 2nd year of apprenticeship he was placed in a cafe, hotel and a club. Seven weeks ago Aaron was proposed to compete by a professional member of La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs (Mate Herceg who owns Granata’s in Sydney). Full-time Aaron works in an Accor property which is his hobby and guilty pleasure: if he isn’t at work he isn’t happy — his colleagues are his best mates.

I stole Aaron away for an interview after the award ceremony to learn a little about the man who did good! For the competition the process was: Initially to travel 45 mins building his nerves prior to his arrival at the kitchens, next he donned his La Chaîne apron and chef’s jacket and, as he likes simple food, was delighted to open his mystery box to find some fruit (loganberries and strawberries) chocolate and nuts for his dessert. Going in you can’t plan too much ahead but the first thing he did was put on his lamb stock for his main course to make sure it reduced well.

He put up his entrée which was seared Murray Cod with poached yabbies, a shiitake ginger stock and corn wild rice. For main course, lamb back-strap with cauliflower puree, kale, buttered zucchini, buttered braised fennel and charred eggplant and fennel fronds to garnish with lamb jus. Aaron’s dessert was macadamia crumb with thyme compressed loganberries, poached strawberry with orange and chocolate ganache and a greek yogurt. Aaron feels he got lucky with his entry.

Aaron said “It is a lot of work for three and a half hours of toil. My influencers chefs wise are: Danial Humm  (Swiss chef ) of 11 Madison Park —  his style of cooking is so simple and he creates for a 3 Michelin Star restaurant. What he puts on the plate looks so simple but the effort that he puts into preserving that element is ridiculous so he is a ‘God’ in  my eyes. Massimo Bottura, he is next level and I love Gordon Ramsey, he is disciplined and his style is French but very modern and what he cooks most chefs inspire to cook. Everything he puts up is not only tasty but looks great too!”

Next for Aaron is off to Taiwan for the international competition. Then perhaps New York or San Francisco, what inspires Aaron about the USA is that a lot of European chefs go there and open restaurants. “Winter in New York sounds great to me!”

The criteria for entrants : Under 27 years of age and working for a Professional Chef member of La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.

The competition: 1/2 hour menu writing, 3hr prep time, 1/2 hr service.

All entrants were awarded a medal and a certificate. The top three were given extra medals with certificates and a years membership as a Friend of La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. 3rd Prize Mark Johnson, 2nd Prize Ungki Lee from the Gold Coast and 1st Prize Aaron Engeler. Norman Harrison, Bailli Délégué Australia la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs (based in S. Australia) and Andrew Crispin Conseiller Culinaire la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, Culinary Trainer, Crown Culinarium did the presentations. The Master of Ceremonies was Ken de Mallindine Bailli Victoria la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, Regional Manager Vic & TAS, Le Cordon Bleu Australia.

Vive La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and Vive Le Cordon Bleu.


La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs started in 1248 and now has 25,000 members in 85 countries.

Le Cordon Bleu, Moorabbin Campus, Melbourne.

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