My wife was talking about the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition and encouraged me to give it a go. I knew straight away I would present a vegan dish when I submitted the application. I was eager to represent myself and my style of cooking to the judges, other chefs and industry professionals.

I discovered a passion for vegan/vegetarian dishes (even though I am neither of them myself) over the past few years. My aim was, and still is, to showcase the potential a plant-based dish can have, especially when it has been prepared with thought and consideration.

The main idea for the dish [smoked celeriac with Granny Smith apple and crisp taro] never changed and was the same as it was at the beginning. At first, I had a vegetarian dish in mind, but it became vegan with small adjustments. I still have the very first pictures on my computer, so I can compare it to the presented version.

The problem with vegan dishes (most of the time) is the cliché that comes with them: tasteless, weird textures with no excitement made with the same products. I had to find a solution to make something rich, textural and interesting that was still refreshing.

Finding the right plate was a big challenge as the dish only works in a bowl that’s the right height and angle. It is a dish you have to dig into several times where you find something new each time.

There are warm creamy textures at the beginning followed by crispiness and cold elements. The texture changes depending on how you start, but the flavour itself never changes.

[Josh Niland (one of the judges) saying it was the best dish he’d eaten all year] was an unexpected statement, which made me very, very happy. Josh is an amazing chef and a great inspiration, which made his feedback even more special.

I always wanted to show that I can cook and am capable of creating a memorable dish. I think I gave the judges the chance to taste something memorable, but also the other chefs and industry professionals who tried it during the final.

Being the regional winner gives me the chance to represent the Pacific in the finals in Milan, Italy, and it really means a lot to me. As a chef in South Australia, I feel proud to represent the region on a national and international level. Once more information has been released, I will start to prepare myself and work with my mentor Peter Gilmore for the grand final round.