TWO chefs from the Hunter took out gold in the Chef's Table Competition at an awards ceremony held at Sydney's Doltone House last week.
Cessnock Leagues Club's Vincent St Kitchen + Bar head chef Jonathan Heath and chef Tom Harris battled it out against 86 chefs from 43 clubs across NSW to take gold in the competition which was held in July at Ryde TAFE.
The competing teams each had three hours to create an entree, main and dessert in a "mystery box" challenge in which all of the ingredients had to be used.
The judging panel complimented the pair's consistently high standard of presentation, as well as great technical execution of vichyssoise in the chicken liver and mushroom ravioli entree, and the cremeux in their citrus pavlova for dessert.
"In the box there were a couple of doozies, like chicken hearts and chicken livers and a whole chicken," Heath told Food & Wine.
"And then there was a grapefruit and a jar of figs and a couple of other things - mushrooms, potatoes, daikon radish and kohlrabi, which I don't think a lot of the other contestants had ever seen before in their lives let alone used.
"The whole theme for the day was more is less, so when we took that approach to creating the menu, we tried to just use everything from the box and not really get anything from the pantry, and to do different things to the ingredients but stay true to the flavours."
The pair chose meat and three vegetables as the theme for their main.
"We created a classic Australian meat and three veg, but did our own spin on it," Heath said.
"We rosemary-smoked the chicken breast and then sous-vide cooked it and added chicken skin crisps on top for texture.
"The Maryland of chicken we confit in a beautiful aromatic oil and then all of the carcass leftover from the chicken we turned into a beautiful jus which we put the fig through as well so it had a slight sweetness.
"For the vegetables, we did creamed leek, blackened onion, potato fondants and roasted carrot puree, so there was a lot going on but, essentially, it's meat and three veg."
The pair managed to finish with 30 minutes on the clock which allowed time to perfect the presentation of each dish.
Heath and Harris have worked together in kitchens for the past three years, including at Margan Restaurant in Broke. Heath, who moved to Australia from Cape Town six years ago, started his career at Bimbadgen's Esca. He joined the kitchen at Vincent St Restaurant + Bar last year after the venue underwent a major refurbishment to offer a sophisticated dining and bar space at Cessnock Leagues Club with a modern contemporary menu.
Vincent St Kitchen + Bar plan to host a night to celebrate the win by recreating the three courses for the menu, with canapés and bubbles on arrival.