The Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Award is back for 2023. This year marks the 58th anniversary of the program, and will once again see young professionals from Australia and New Zealand compete for the title.

Apprentices and young chefs will put their skills to the test in a series of live cook-offs across entrée, main and dessert sections during the competition.

This year’s competition is backed by alumni from past years, now industry leading chefs, who have gone on to achieve impressive culinary careers.

Meet the chefs

Telina Menzies
Executive chef at Australian Venue Co.
2001-2003 national finalist

Menzies has participated in the Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Award three times and has also been named a national finalist. Menzies has worked at a range of different venues since including The Publican Group, Create Food in London, the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre and the Hyatt Regency Perth.

“The competition opened a lot of doors for me, meeting like-minded people and networking is a win in itself,” says the chef. “It really puts you on a stage to get noticed. Performing under pressure is a key thing you take away.”

Menzies now works at Australian Venue Co., managing more than 50 venues across Victoria, Western Australia and regional New South Wales. For Menzies, helping up-and-coming chefs is something she enjoys and the chef is excited to work alongside the next generation of culinary talents.

“I live and breathe what I do,” she says. “It’s not just a job, it’s my absolute passion. I get inspired to make every day better than the last.”

Ben Devlin
Owner and executive chef at Pipit Restaurant
2005 national winner

Devlin’s 2005 entry into the competition was encouraged by his boss at the time, which resulted in him taking out the title of national winner.

“It was a great experience and confidence boost at the start of my career that kept me interested in learning,” says Devlin. “It was the first time I was able to meet other peers and feel part of a bigger industry outside the one small kitchen I knew.”

Devlin is one of the industry’s most innovative and forward-thinking chefs, and has worked in the kitchens of Paper Daisy at Halcyon House, Brisbane’s Esquire and even at the famed Noma.

Now, he runs and owns Pottsville’s Pipit, which has been a milestone reached for Devlin and an experience he is keen to share with the next generation of chefs.

“Owning my own place has been a long-time career ambition, so it’s been very satisfying to achieve that and open Pipit in 2019,” says Devlin. “Small business ownership is tough for lots of reasons, but we also get full creative freedom on our menu, format, hours, team and culture.”

Giles Gabutina
Head chef at Cricca
2019 national winner

Gabutina was the 2019 Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Award national winner, and says the experience built his confidence as a chef.

“I hold myself to very high standards and didn’t think I’d be able to hit the mark in Golden Chef!” he says. “Winning was so gratifying and definitely built my confidence. It gave me validation to develop my own unique style of cooking.”

Now, Gabutina is living out his career dream, owning and running a restaurant with his best friend which he says is a surreal feeling.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a long road to get here, but I’m truly grateful to have this opportunity and be part of something special,” he says. “You have to be prepared to put in the long hours and hard work to get a restaurant up and running, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” 

Ashleigh Otto
Head pastry chef at Pullman Cairns International
2017 national finalist

After being named a finalist in the 2017 comp, Otto was scouted to work in Singapore. She says the recognition through the competition “really does open doors for you to accelerate your career”.

Accelerating her career is exactly what Otto has done, and the chef has gone on to work her way up at Pullman Cairns International to the role of head pastry chef. She says she’s never stopped learning and is always keen to develop her skills.

“I love networking and bouncing ideas around with other creative minds and I’m passionate about contributing to the community,” she says. “Pastry is magic with endless creative possibilities. Every day is a new day to learn, create and serve.”

Praveen Rodrigo
Executive sous chef at Pullman Hotels & Resorts
2017 national finalist

For Rodrigo, being a 2017 national finalist was a pivotal moment in his culinary career. “My experience was a game-changer,” he says. “It gave me credibility in moving my career forward, and the connections I made with other chefs was epic.”

Rodrigo worked across Doubletree by Hilton Darwin and Hilton Melbourne South Wharf before landing his role as executive sous chef at Pullman Hotel & Resorts. As a judge, Rodrigo is excited to help chefs achieve their career dreams. “I’m all about supporting other young chefs to move their careers forward and gain industry credibility.”

Dylan Sanding
Executive chef at Melbourne Cricket Ground
2008 and 2009 national finalist

The Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Award gave Sanding the chance to improve his cooking skills. “It gave me the confidence to be creative and allow myself to be judged,” he says. “The feedback you get helps you refine and keep upping your game.”

Now a judge himself, Sanding is passionate about passing on the same guidance to participating chefs. “Giving back to the industry is really important to me,” he says. “I’ve come a long way in my career and being able to provide mentorship to the younger chefs starting out is a real focus for me.”

How to enter

Entries for the 2023 Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Award are now open, and will close on Friday 5 May 2023. The competition is open to Australian and New Zealand apprentice and junior chefs who are aged between 16 and 25 and are currently or recently employed in the industry or are in full-time industry study.

To enter, visit