Timaru student takes top prize at culinary competition

JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ

Students from Invercargill to Christchurch competed at Timaru's Ara campus in the Southern Lights Salon Culinaire competition on Saturday.

Deciding to enter a cooking competition a week out and testing a dish for the first time may sound like a recipe for disaster, but for Timaru cooking student Joelle Snook, it was a recipe for success.

Snook will be flying to Auckland for a national cooking competition after taking out the Trainee Chef title at the Southern Lights Salon Culinaire cooking competition, held during the weekend at Timaru's Ara Institute of Canterbury campus.

It was the second victory for Snook, who previously won the title in 2015, and then went on to win the National Trainee Chef of the Year competition at the New Zealand Hospitality Championships.

Sukhwinder Sukhi adds the finishing touches to one of her dishes.
JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ

Sukhwinder Sukhi adds the finishing touches to one of her dishes.

South Cantabrian Torryn Williams also nabbed a top title, being named trainee waiter of the competition.

More than 80 students from Ara, Otago Polytechnic, Southern Institute of Technology, and other competitors within the hospitality industry battled it out in a bid to create the M.O.A.D, or mother of all dishes, Southern Lights Salon Culinaire salon director Stephen Le Corre said.

It was the competition's 19th year, and the standard of food being served had dramatically changed since the event was last held in Timaru three years ago, Le Corre said.

Judges Bill McDonald, left, and Scott Richardson observe the kitchen as contestants craft their dishes.
JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ

Judges Bill McDonald, left, and Scott Richardson observe the kitchen as contestants craft their dishes.

Ara student Snook won the overall title of Southern Lights Trainee Chef, and now had chance to compete in the national competition in Auckland at the end of July.

Snook said she was surprised to take out the top spot as she had only decided to enter the competition a week before.

In order to be eligible to win she had to enter three dishes. Her first dish was a dessert made of passionfruit and Yuzu, a japanese citrus fruit.

Hang Xu Lin of Southern Institute of Technology prepares a chicken dish for cooking.
JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ

Hang Xu Lin of Southern Institute of Technology prepares a chicken dish for cooking.

The next section she entered required contestants to serve their best hot plate, cold.

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This meant the dish was only judged on presentation rather than flavour, Snook explained.

Snook and her tutor had stayed up until 3am the day of the competition preparing the cooked lamb loin, parsnip puree with carrots, onion, and beetroot.

"It was really tiring."

Finally contestants were supplied with a piece of salmon, which Snook pan-fried and served with udon noodles, soya and ginger caviar, and an Asian salad

"It was the first time I had tried that dish so I was winging it," Snook said.

"It definitely paid off."

Le Corre said the competition was an excellent start for chefs to begin their competitive careers, get a taste for cooking, and be judged at a high standard.

"There was a real range of stuff being cooked, some was great and some was not," he said.

"Some beautiful gateaus were being served up."

 - Stuff

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