The only female and youngest chef among the finalists has been awarded the inaugural Ōra King Chef’s Bursary worth $10,000.
Christchurch-born chef de partie Carlita Campbell (21) who works at Wellington’s Cobar Restaurant plans to use her prize to test her skills in London for three weeks “where hard chefs are made”.
Ms Campbell was one of three finalists who competed in phase II of the judging at The Foodstore restaurant in Auckland on 18 March. The other two finalists were Krishnil Dutt from Auckland’s Masu Japanese Robata Restaurant & Bar and Scott Gibbs from Christchurch restaurant Tequila Mockingbird.
The trio prepared and plated their self-created Ōra King dishes prior to an interview with the judging panel about their plans for the future.
Ms Campbell prepared Beetroot cured Ōra King Salmon on beurre noisette rye crumbs with pickled golden beets and vanilla mayonnaise.
“To win this $10,000 Ōra King Chef’s Bursary is a dream come true,” Ms Campbell says. “I can’t wait to go to London and immerse myself in the food culture there and bring all those learnings back home with me.
“It’s no secret chefs can struggle to meet the costs of gaining experience so I feel very supported in my career path. It’s great to have companies such as Ōra King helping young chefs and the industry with these opportunities.”
Ms Campbell is no stranger to the chef’s podium. She won her first cooking competition at age 12 and has won a further 26 medals since. Her ambition is to one day have her own restaurant in New Zealand.
The judges say Ms Campbell’s dish “delivers striking visual impact consistent across all plates with well-balanced flavours and textures”.
“The dish was designed to look like a vibrant garden on a plate and the taste lives up to what we saw on paper in Carlita’s application – eating it is the best bit,” they commented. “It was a really well thought-out dish.”
Ōra King ambassador chef Mark Southon from The Food Store says New Zealand needs more chefs like Ms Campbell.
“She has a vision that she wants her own restaurant and to have that goal is great – that’s why you’re in the industry,” Chef Southon says. “It’s blood, sweat and tears for years.”
Ōra King’s Jemma McCowan says she was impressed with the quality of all three finalists on the day. Each had developed a distinct cuisine style from their own experiences and the variety of trip proposals reflected these individual passions.
“We knew we were in for a tough decision once we’d tasted all three of the dishes. It was also a privilege to listen to the candidates’ aspirations to succeed in the industry – the opportunity obviously meant a lot to each finalist and there were some emotional moments on the day.
“We see bright futures ahead for each of the finalists, but in the end Carlita just had the edge – we are looking forward to supporting her towards the next stage of her career,” Ms McCowan says.
Ms Campbell heads to London in May where she is planning a work placement at Marcus Wareing at The Berkley Restaurant, an elegant Knightsbridge restaurant set within the renowned Berkeley Hotel.
She also plans to immerse herself in the established London street food market scene where she will identify a street food / market vendor of note and work alongside the owner for a short time. Ms Campbell is going to blog regularly about her experiences from the Ōra King website www.orakingsalmon.co.nz.
The award was judged by culinary industry leaders magazine editor Sarah Nicholson, president of NZ Guild of Food Writers Trudi Nelson and Ōra King’s Jemma McCowan. Mark Southon joined the panel for the final.