Student from Whitireia and WelTec selected to represent NZ in 2023 global Young Chef Olympiad in India

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21-year old Wellingtonian, Michelle Burling-Claridge, a Level 5 Diploma in Hospitality Management student at Whitireia and WelTec (Te Pūkenga), has been selected to represent New Zealand in the global culinary event the IIHM Young Chef Olympiad 2023.

Following two years of hosting the Young Chef Olympiad event online, it is now back in India and will be judged in-person in January.

Young chefs from over 50 countries will fly into India to compete. Competitors will be judged on several factors: ability to cook with given ingredients within a specified time, creativity of dish and taste, and utilisation of pre-selected ingredients.

Michelle, with her WelTec tutor, Frank Prskawetz, will be flying over to whip up a culinary storm.

“This is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as there is only one young chef selected from each of the 50 participating countries,” says Frank.

Michelle, who finished high school at Onslow College before completing WelTec programmes in bakery, cookery and hospitality, is both nervous and excited about the challenge: “It is just awesome news and it doesn’t yet feel quite real to me! I am so excited to go to India as I have only ever traveled as far as Australia before.

“It will be incredible to meet other upcoming chefs and the competition will be a good test of pressure. But of course so many things can go wrong when you are cooking so I am a bit nervous about that! But Frank has trained me so well and taught me great new techniques so I feel confident,” says Michelle. 

Michelle’s WelTec tutor, Frank, explains that in the initial round students will prepare a vegetarian dish made from a table of ingredients (like a magic box) and a lemon meringue tart for dessert. In the final round, they will make a classic French omelette, a prawn dish from a table of ingredients, and a tarte tatin to finish.

“We have been practicing preparing dishes from pre-selected ingredients to help get Michelle used to this format. She is a very well rounded chef, having done both cookery and bakery through WelTec, so I am sure she will do well,” says Frank.

Michelle, who chose to study at WelTec because “of its great reputation in Wellington, a great campus and facilities, and is close to home” is currently working at Hippopotamus restaurant at the QT Hotel in Wellington, and hopes the Young Chef Olympiad will be a stepping stone to further work and travel overseas. “I would love to work and travel around the world, and that is what I am hoping to do next.” 

The IIHM Young Chef Olympiad 2023 starts on January 29th.

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