Appetite for Excellence 2019 winners announced

06 August, 2019 by
Madeline Woolway

The 2019 Appetite for Excellence winners were revealed on Tuesday 6 August after an extensive two-month judging process.

Bianca Johnston from Tom McHugo’s in Tasmania took home the 2019 Appetite for Excellence Young Chef 2019. Commenting on her win, Johnston said “I come from Hobart in Tassie… down there you really feel a sense of community and coming to a competition like this you realise that the sense of community goes so beyond where you work and who you see everyday. Thank you so much to Appetite for Excellence, I feel very grateful.”

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Johnston is the first woman to win the Appetite for Excellence Young Chef trophy.

Peter Gilmore presented the award to Johnston, commenting on the calibre of all entrants. “We say this every year, but it truly was a tough decision this year,” he said. “Every year it just gets more and more inspiring seeing these young chefs come through the program.”

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The One to Watch in the Young Chef category was awarded Anna Ugarte-Carral from Sydney’s Momofuku Seiobo.

The 2019 Appetite for Excellence Young Waiter award went to Olivia Evans of Fleet in Brunswick Heads NSW, while Quay’s Sophie Gitterle was named the One to Watch.

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Luke Piccolo of Limone in Griffith, NSW, was awarded the 2019 Young Restaurateur of the Year.

This year’s competition is indicative of the talent to be found across Australia’s hospitality industry, with all three winners hailing from restaurants outside of the nation’s major cities.

“Every year I am blown away by the level of talent that comes through the program,” said Luke Mangan, co-founder of Appetite for Excellence. “More impressive though is the passion that each of these national finalists has for what they do. We had a group that was nothing short of outstanding and proved to me how valuable the time we as the judges spend with the group can be, hopefully guiding them to make the best decisions in their career and helping to set them up for successful careers in Australia’s restaurants.”

Mangan co-founded the program with Lucy Allon 14 years ago.

Speaking to a room of high profile industry leaders at his restaurant Glass Brasserie in The Hilton Sydney, Mangan remarked “Tonight is about the future of our industry. These young chefs, waiters and restaurateurs… they are our future, we need to look after them.”

Prior to the awards ceremony, the national finalists came together for the annual produce tour – three days of workshops and hands on learning experiences with producers, which this year took place in New South Wales across the Southern Highlands and South Coast.

“This year’s Young Chef, Waiter and Restaurateur finalists went through a really detailed and rigorous two-month judging process,” said Allon. “They should be extremely proud of their success in getting to the final stages of the competition. As their prize, they’ve just spent an incredible few days together on the annual produce tour. What they learnt about the region, produce, innovation and entrepreneurism has been invaluable.”

The awards were judged by industry luminaries lead by Lisa Van Haandel, Guy Grossi and Peter Gilmore.

“There is definitely a system the judges use for scoring that covers things you’d expect like taste, presentation etc,” said Gilmore. “But we also trust our instincts when it comes to choosing the winner. It’s sometimes pretty obvious the young chefs that have that little bit extra — positivity, openness and passion.”

Fellow judges included Jo Barrett, Analiese Gregory, Luke Mangan, Dan Hunter, Martin Benn, Kylie Javier-Ashton, Phil Wood, Dan Puskas, Andrew McConnell, Danielle Gjestland, James Viles, Troy Rhoades-Brown, Richard Ousby and Marilyn Annecchini. The prestigious cohort worked collectively to appoint the winner of each category, with the final decision being made at a lunch in June prepared by Appetite for Excellence 2016 Young Chef winner Aaron Ward of Ester.

“The most rewarding part of the program has been the access to the judges’ feedback,” said Johnston of the process. “This has helped me to understand my strengths and weaknesses in cooking and made me aware of the type of food I want to cook. As a winner, I’m now presented with the unique opportunity to stage overseas and continue to add to the extensive network of mentors I’ve been given access to. I’m excited to step outside my normal work environment and learn from the producers, suppliers and customers I meet along the way, and become a better chef overall.”

The 2019 Young Chef, Young Waiter and Young Restaurateur winners will enjoy return overseas flights courtesy of Virgin Australia and the opportunity to experience a stagiaire at a world renowned restaurant. The Young Chef and Waiter $3000 to help with overseas travel and expenses, while the Young Restaurateur recieves $5000 to invest in a business project approved by the restaurateur judges.

In addition to the chef, waiter and restaurateur categories, Appetite for Excellence and Perrier challenged Australia’s bartenders to create a modern Perrier Aperitivo cocktail using Perrier mineral water. This year’s competition was judged by two of Australia’s best bartenders: Luke Ashton, Diageo’s 2013 World Class Bartender of the Year and owner of This Must Be The Place and Jenna Hemsworth, head bartender at Restaurant Hubert, 2018 Australian Bartender of the Year and 2019 Australian Bacardi Legacy Champion.

The 2019 Perrier Aperitivo competition winner is Matty Opai from Icebergs Dining Room and Bar.

2019 Appetite for Excellence finalists

Appetite for Excellence 2019 Young Chef National finalists

  1. Anna Ugarte-Carral, Momofuku Seiobo NSW
  2. Ashley-Maree Kent, Tasca Coolangatta QLD
  3. Bianca Johnston, Tom McHugo’s TAS
  4. George Wintle, Oakridge Wines VIC
  5. James Cole-Bowen, Restaurant Lume VIC
  6. Serkan Tamcelik, Quay Restaurant NSW
  7. Thomas Foster, Cirrus Dining NSW

Appetite for Excellence 2019 Young Waiter National finalists

  1. Caitlin McDonald, Momofuku Seiobo NSW
  2. Caroline Simpson, Rosetta Ristorante VIC
  3. Nance Liong, Momofuku Seiobo NSW
  4. Olivia Evans, Fleet NSW
  5. Orlena Prosser, AKIBA ACT
  6. Sophie Gitterle, Quay Restaurant NSW

Appetite for Excellence 2019 Young Restaurateur National finalists

  1. Charlie Carrington, Atlas Dining VIC
  2. Daisy Miller, Soi38 SA
  3. Hannah Abraham, Il Passagio NSW
  4. Luke Piccolo, Limone NSW