Top teen cooks
Jo Elwin meets two of New Zealand's most promising teenage chefs who aren't afraid of a challenge
Onehunga High School students Abigail Rapana and Emmanuel Lee joined us in the Bite kitchen last week. The Auckland regional winners of August’s National Seconday Schools Culinary Challenge (NSSCC), each cooked us a recipe for photography. NSSCC is the country’s premier secondary schools culinary competition, with 10 teams of two culinary year 12/13 students going head-to-head in a live cook off. The challenge saw them creating four servings of both an entrée and main course. Locally grown beetroot had to feature in the entrée, with chicken, potatoes and seasonal New Zealand vegetables key ingredients of the main.
After an intense 90 minutes of cooking Abby and Emmanuel were awarded gold by the judges: Mark Wylie, chef, Cater Plus; Ben Bayly, chef, Baduzzi and The Grove; John Kelleher, AUT senior lecturer - Professional Cookery; Craig Lucas, chef lecturer at Manukau Institute of Technology's Culinary School and Jeremy Schmid, owner/chef, The Officer's Mess at Fort Takapuna. The top prize went to Clize Craven and Miku Kiyama from Canterbury’s Burnside High.
It was a pleasure to have our Auckland winners in the Bite kitchen, in fact we suggested they may like to move in – they were organised and efficient and they left the kitchen spotless. Thanks to the competition’s judging criteria, this duo were well schooled on food preparation, food safety, timing, sustainable cooking practice and preparation. Angie Wilson, head of catering and hospitality at Onehunga High, has a very special rapport with her students and has inspired them to make food a career and to absolutely love cooking.
The winning duo from Burnside High School fly to Tahiti to represent New Zealand at the International Secondary Schools Competition ISSCC later this week and I’ll be there watching so there will be more tales of talented young cooks to come. In the meantime, below are a couple of Abby and Emmanuel’s favourite recipes.
Quick bites with Abigail Rapana and Emmanuel Lee, Onehunga High School
Tell us a little about you
A I am one of seven siblings, one sister and five brothers. I make and decorate cakes as a hobby.
E I can make/programme websites, I go to the gym and I like cooking and eating.
Who or what inspired you to start cooking?
A My mum started teaching me to cook when I was nine. The first meal I cooked was spaghetti bolognaise.
E I baked a chocolate chip cookie at school and got nominated to make it on parent/student visits to the school. From then I started to take an interest in cooking.
What is your favourite thing to cook at home?
A My favourite thing to cook at home is lasagne since it’s a quick and easy meal that can feed a big family like mine.
E A Korean dish called dakjim - spicy braised chicken with vegetables.
Who does the majority of the cooking at home?
A My mum but I always help her out or take over when she’s tired.
E My dad and I do most of the cooking and when he is not there I am in charge of the cooking.
Who are your favourite chefs/cooks and why?
A Heston Blumenthal is really creative when he cooks. Buddy Valastro (Cake Boss) makes extraordinary cakes and William Mordido (past pupil of Onehunga High School) has taken time out to teach me a lot about food and helped me with my cooking skills.
E William Mordido has taught me so much in a short amount of time. He is so ambitious and passionate about cooking that it inspires me. I also love Gordon Ramsay because he is funny and Jamie Oliver because he has a very cool channel on YouTube called FoodTube.
Do you have any favourite cooking programmes, food blogs, cookbooks or websites?
A The majority of the time I watch TV it’s the food channel. I like to watch Cake Boss, Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals and Heston’s Feast.
E Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube because it has so many different recipes from many countries and lots of ‘how to’ videos.
What are your favourite ingredients to cook with and why?
A My favourite ingredients are chocolate, because I love making dessert, and onion because it’s a must in most dishes.
E Onions, spring onions, garlic and ginger because they put refreshing flavour into food. In Korean cooking I use lots of these ingredients.
Is there anything that you refuse to eat?
A I refuse to eat mussels and papaya.
E I have nothing I refuse to eat. If it is something that I haven’t eaten before I am willing to try something new.
Would you like cooking or food to play a part in your career?
A I would love to cook professionally because cooking has played a huge role in my life. I would like to become a chef and own my own restaurant one day.
E Yes. A person needs to eat and I like to eat delicious food. I would like to become a chef because I love feeding people and getting the positive (or negative) feedback to make my food taste better.
What did you think of the National Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge? How did you find the pressure of the competition? And did you find it easy to cook to the brief that they set you?
A The NCCSS was a big deal for me since it was the competition that helped me become more passionate about cooking. The pressure of the competition was huge. We first represented our school at Regionals then the pressure increased when we won Auckland region and then we had to compete in Nationals. Nationals were the best of best competing and so you had a lot of students who were just as passionate about food and wanted to win as much as me and Emmanuel. I found the brief a little challenging since I never really incorporate beetroot in my cooking. The rest of the ingredients were easy because they were common foods that I would use.
E I found the NSSCC very challenging and fun, even though there was a lot of pressure and screw ups. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. It was not easy to cook the brief they set, but with practice and determination I found it less frustrating.
Creamy white wine and mushroom pasta
Abby: This dish is one that we developed at school for the regional and national culinary competitions. It won the competition in the NZ Chefs National Salon and everybody who tried it loved it. I thought it would be a dish that Bite readers might like to enjoy too.
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp oil
1 small brown onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 small red capsicum, diced
8 medium to large button mushrooms, diced
3-4 portobello mushrooms, diced
1 tsp smoked paprika
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup cream
400g fresh fettucine pasta
Crème fraiche, to serve
Microgreens, to garnish
- Place a saucepan on to boil for the pasta. Add a pinch of salt to the water
- Heat butter and oil in pan over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic for 1-2 minutes taking care not to brown.
- Add capsicum to cook for a few minutes.
- Add mushrooms and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir through smoked paprika and parsley.
- Add wine and stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a low simmer. Cook to reduce liquid by half.
- Add cream and let simmer on low to reduce and thicken.
- Place pasta on to boil. Drain when cooked.
- Serve pasta topped with mushroom sauce. Garnish with crème fraiche and microgreens.
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Sweet and spicy Korean chicken
Emmanuel: This chicken recipe uses an ingredient called gochujang that is in many Korean dishes. We use it a lot at home so I wanted to share this flavour with New Zealanders.
1 Tbsp oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
⅓ cup tomato sauce
⅓ cup rice or corn syrup
¼ cup gochujang (hot pepper paste)
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
½ cup unsalted, roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup potato starch
½ cup flour
2 large chicken breasts
1-2 eggs, beaten
Oil, for frying chicken
- For the sauce, heat oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat and cook crushed garlic for 1 minute – do not let it brown. Add tomato sauce, rice syrup, gochujang and apple cider vinegar. Mix to combine. Bring to the boil then turn down heat to let sauce thicken slightly. Stir occasionally. Add peanuts and mix through.
- For the coating, mix together salt, pepper, baking soda, potato starch and flour.
- Cut chicken into strips and coat in flour mixture, then into beaten egg and back into flour mixture.
- Heat some cooking oil in a frying pan. Shallow fry chicken until golden and cooked through.
- Add cooked chicken to sauce mixture and heat through.
- Serve immediately with an Asian slaw and steamed rice.
Hot pepper paste, known as gochujang is made from red chilli, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt . Very pungent, it adds a deep red colour to dishes. Available from Asian grocers and larger supermarkets. Look for the red tub. Find out more in our glossary section.
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