Maitland apprentice chef vying for glory in trans-Tasman cook-off!

Maitland’s Ashleigh Handsaker is one step closer to culinary glory after being named NSW Regional finalist in the 2021 Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Award.

Ashleigh, who is a first-year apprentice chef at Maitland eatery Fratelli Roma, will now go head-to-head with 11 fellow grand finalist chefs from Australia and New Zealand in Sydney this September, vying for the Golden Chef of the Year title, and a $10,000 cash prize.

The 19-year-old impressed judges with a bronze medal-winning two-course meal that consisted of confit chicken Maryland, and chicken roulade with carrot puree, braised leeks, sautéed cavolo nero and jus gras.

This was followed by a tempting cardamom crème brulee tart, rhubarb coulis, caramelised white chocolate crumble and citrus Chantilly cream.

“I’ve always been passionate about food and I felt that this competition would help me build my career and relationships in the industry,” Ashleigh said.

“I’ve been experimenting with food since I was young and have always known I wanted to be a chef. If you’re not proud to serve a dish, then re-evaluate. Being confident in being a chef is about having the ability to perfect a classic dish and create something new and innovative.”

The judging panel scored using globally recognised culinary standards to award Ashleigh with the regional heats win, one of 12 being held across Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s never been more important to come together to support our industry, inspire young talent and provide key skills for them to succeed in their careers,” executive chef and Nestlé Professional head judge Mark Clayton said.

“This award is about pushing yourself to be a better chef. It’s a chance for young chefs to step out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves. Ashleigh really proved her cooking passion and delivered standout dishes.”

The Golden Chef’s Hat Award offers apprentice and junior chefs a chance to showcase their skills in live cook-offs judged to globally recognised standards to win medals across entrée, main and dessert course categories. 

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