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  • 10 August, 2012
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Pick ‘n Pay School Chefs Cook up an Italian storm

Author: Maria Radcliffe

Pick ‘n Pay School Chefs Competition Video

As with the previous two years when the first week in August rolled around, it meant that the Prue Leith Chefs Academy was preparing to host the annual Pick ‘n Pay School Chefs Competition.

Two months earlier 150 entries from all over South Africa were delivered to the Academy. We spent two days deliberating over who should be the final ten teams to participate in the cook-off hosted in the Prue Leith kitchens.

The theme for this year’s competition was Italian, using local ingredients and it was marvelous to see the variety presented in the entries. The starter suggestions ranged from Italian style mezze plates, traditional Parma ham and melon to bruschetta with various toppings.

For the main courses it was good to see that our young school chefs are not afraid to be adventurous and incorporated ingredients such as veal, baby octopus and Springbok.  The desserts were an interesting mix, from traditional tiramisu to the not so traditional, with added berries and extravagant chocolate garnishes. Panna cotta’s featured as well as the beautiful Italian specialty, cannoli!

Once all the pressure of cooking in a strange kitchen and against the clock was done, it was time for the judges to give their verdict. Not an easy task with the standard being so much higher than last year. The judging panel consisted of a chef from Prue Leith, two judges from Pick ‘n Pay and a chef from Nestlé foods.

The overall winning team was from Jan van Riebeek high school.  Alisha van Heerden and Marcelle Liebenberg produced three flavorful dishes of Springbok Carpaccio, Chicken breast wrapped in Parma Ham, and a lovely fresh dessert of Panna cotta with peach sorbet and granadilla syrup.

Some additional prizes included best starter, won by the team from Christian Brothers College, Pretoria. The starter was an interesting compilation plate of Italian flavors, including Caprese salad, Aranchini and Gremolata. The top dessert was won by the team from Boksburg high school, and included a dark chocolate mousse, with toasted hazelnuts and a popcorn brittle garnish.

From this year’s competition it was clear that the standards in our school kitchens are improving and that the future of South African cuisine looks promising.

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