In a year like no other, Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Award has adapted to a new virtual format, sourcing a top 10 line-up of young chef talent from right across Australia and New Zealand.

With this being the time that young chefs needed support more than ever, the award promised to uphold its 55-year legacy of developing the next generation of talented chefs.

“In a year marked by many challenges, it’s been wonderful to see the Golden Chefs competition adapt and become even more relevant to young chefs. With lots of culinary competitions switching off this year, together with Nestlé Professional, we didn’t waiver in standing by young chefs,” says Karen Doyle, national president of the Australian Culinary Federation. “Vital opportunities like this are an essential part of their career advancement.”

With lockdowns and travel restrictions continuing, simultaneous finals events were held at multiple locations, from Perth to Christchurch, Hobart to Darwin, and everywhere in between.

The stakes were high with the chefs pushing themselves across entrée, main and dessert courses. Expert judges were assigned to each finals location to assess professional practices, presentation and the all-important taste factor.

“This year has highlighted that there are some seriously motivated and talented young chefs driving the future of this industry,” says Scott Stuckmann, business executive officer, Nestlé Professional. “I assure you it won’t be the last we hear from each of them and this is just the start of even more opportunities that await.”

With medals achieved by all the finalists, ultimately three chefs were in play for the Golden Chef of the Year. Gold medals were achieved by Eve Sheraton from Brisbane and Maverick Cuthbert from Perth, along with Sam Heaven from Napier, New Zealand.

“All of the chefs represented themselves to an incredible level, they simply went beyond. Right across their menus, they rose to the challenge and were exceptional when it came to flavour, technical expertise and overall creativity,” says Mark Clayton, executive chef Nestlé Professional.

But there could be only one winner, with Sam Heaven being crowned the 2020 Golden Chef of the Year.

Sam who has been awarded $10,000 to further his culinary career says he is elated: “This caps off an incredibly challenging time not only for me but for all the other young chefs across New Zealand and Australia who have had to deal with such difficult times. To achieve success in this event I had to park all the stresses of job issues and lockdowns, and forge ahead with an end game in mind of winning.”

Chef Davy Dai from Victoria also achieved the Most Creative Use of a Nestlé Product Award and was awarded a $1,000 cash prize.

“We promised to stand by our chef community, and we’ve done exactly that,” says Stuckmann. “The new virtual format has seen the competition move to a new level, offering chefs a real opportunity to elevate their skills, shape their future and continue to be connected to the incredibly supportive community that is foodservice.”

Watch the Virtual Awards and share the journey of the chefs here