For the second year running, the Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Award successfully adapted to a virtual grand final format, attracting top culinary talent across Australia and New Zealand. Throughout the year nearly 100 talented young chefs competed in regional finals, to earn their chance to win the coveted title of Golden Chef of the Year.

The stakes were high in the grand finals, with the top eleven chefs pushing themselves across (vegan) entrée, main and dessert courses. Each of the finalists competed simultaneously across their regions in commercial kitchens, with two Australian Culinary Federation or NZChefs expert judges onsite to assess professional practices, presentation and the all-important taste factor. At the same time, their dish creations were live streamed to a panel of remote judges who calibrated the results.

Gold medal glory for chef of the year

The title for Golden Chef of the Year was tightly contested. Executive Chef and Nestlé Professional head judge Mark Clayton says, “We attracted an outstanding level of talent this year. Female chefs dominated in the finalist line-up, and an un-precented five gold medals were awarded.”

Golden Chef of the Year was awarded to Kimberly Tang, age 24, who had previously competed in Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Award in 2016 & 2017.  No stranger to the culinary competition circuit, Tang has also competed for Australia in both the prestigious Bocuse d’Or and Chaine des Rotisseurs.

The newly announced Golden Chef of the Year represented Victoria in the grand finals, held at William Angliss Institute. This seasoned competitor wowed the judges with her technical skills. Kimberly produced a fantastic menu that took traditional ideas and modernised them, executed to a level not seen for a long time.

Her previous culinary roles include Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Melbourne and Nobu, Crown Casino. This impressive young chef is now about to embark on her latest culinary role as Sous Chef at Society (LUCAS Restaurants).

“I love the thrill of this competition and it’s true that if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again! Never give up because anything is possible, it’s what you make of every opportunity that counts. My experiences in Golden Chefs have taught me a lot, helping me improve my skills, organisation and knowledge in a short and intense timeframe.”

“I really went all out to stay true to myself this year, drawing on traditional concepts from my heritage and then taking them to a new place with interesting technical applications.”

The Australian Culinary Federation judging panel scored against globally recognised culinary standards to award Tang a gold medal for her three-course menu  comprising:

Entrée – Mushroom Ravioli – Onion and horseradish jelly, mushroom and black garlic parcel, asparagus, pickled foraged mushrooms, yuzu gel, black garlic tuile, and ponzu emulsion.

Main – Hainanese Chicken – Hainanese style chicken with black garlic emulsion, mushroom pearl barley, crispy chicken skin, negi oil, baby onions, shitake, and smoked charcoal pepper dust.

Dessert – Peaches & Strawberries Cream Zen Garden – Mascarpone Cremeux, black garlic and chocolate soil, matcha sponge, mushroom meringue, coconut lotus cookie, umeboshi compressed white peaches, strawberries, grapes, and yuzu gel.

The 2021 culinary award saw five chefs achieve gold medals, which is testament to the high level of talent who made it to the finals:

Kimberly Tang, Victoria – Gold

Jeremy Lackenby, NSW Metro – Gold

Ashleigh Handsaker, NSW Regional – Bronze

Semra Peach, Tasmania – Silver

Jarrod Everett, Northern Territory – Silver

Amber Heaton, South Queensland – Gold

Jayden Osbourne, North Queensland – Bronze

Sarah Jones, South Australia – Gold

Noah Cairnduff, Australian Capital Territory – Silver

Abbey Formentin, Western Australia – Gold

Samantha Warena, New Zealand – Participation

Jeremy Lackenby was awarded the Most Sustainable Approach Award and Sarah Jones was awarded the Most Creative Use of a Nestlé Product Award, landing themselves over $1,000AUD in prizes thanks to SOLIDTEKNICS and Best Restaurants Australia.

Golden Chef of the Year, Tang, has been awarded an AUD$10,000 cash prize to further her culinary career, along with dining vouchers courtesy of Best Restaurants Australia.

As Australia’s longest running culinary competition for young chefs, the Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Award is now in its 56th year, supporting top emerging culinary talent and kick starting their careers.

The award proudly partners with the Australian Culinary Federation and NZChefs, who share in the collective vision of being dedicated to the development of young chefs and the future of the industry.

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