Later this month Wellington Institute of Technology Ltd (WelTec) student Sian Davis will represent New Zealand in the 8th annual Young Chef Olympiad (YCO) event.
YCO is the biggest culinary event in the world for young chefs, and for the past five years students from WelTec have represented New Zealand in competition. 60 countries will compete this year and the competition will take place virtually, making it the largest ever virtual culinary competition.
Sian is about to graduate with a New Zealand Diploma in Cookery (Advanced) (Level 5). She was the commis chef for last year’s WelTec competitor Jess Hoskins, who achieved an incredible result of 3rd in the world. Sian thinks the experience from helping Jess has put her in good stead for taking over as the lead contestant.
“I learnt a lot of tips and tricks assisting Jess that are going to help me compete this time,” says Sian. “I’ve been practicing and preparing non-stop for weeks so I’m feeling good about things. It’s a lot of extra work but it is worth it to compete on the world stage.”
Sian moved to Wellington from Queenstown in 2020, and thinks the change has been beneficial for her cheffing career.
“Wellington has such a rich food culture I knew it was the place for me,” explains Sian.
“WelTec has taught me so much. The tutors are dedicated and always ready to help, and we’re taught to master the basics first and create a solid cooking foundation, before we then go into more technical cooking that takes us to a really high level. It’s a great way to learn.”
Chef tutor Scott Campbell has been involved in five YCO’s now, and won the award for best mentor last year. He sees the competition as a great opportunity to show off WelTec’s excellence on a global platform, and provide valuable high-pressure experience to talented young chefs.
“Competing in events of this size is great for everyone involved,” says Scott.
“As tutors we bring back experience and new ideas that help inform our programmes, and we get to show the innovations and high quality work of our students.
“Employers also keep a close eye on results, and competitors find themselves in hot demand in the New Zealand hospitality industry. Last year’s competitor was hired to work in one of the judge’s restaurants after the competition.”
Sian’s philosophy is to make great food that can be enjoyed by as many people as possible.
“I think everyone should be able to taste delicious food whether you’re vegetarian or have other dietary requirements. I try to cook food that anyone can experience.”
The Young Chef Olympiad begins on January 31.