Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Aucklander Leslie Hottiaux crowned Australasia's top young chef

Leslie Hottiaux, who was the only female semi-finalist, was deemed the winner with her gnocchi tortellini by some of Australia's top chefs. Photo / Lucas Dawson
Leslie Hottiaux, who was the only female semi-finalist, was deemed the winner with her gnocchi tortellini by some of Australia's top chefs. Photo / Lucas Dawson

Auckland chef Leslie Hottiaux has been crowned Australasia's top young chef.

The 29-year-old, who was the only female semi-finalist, was deemed the winner with her gnocchi tortellini by some of Australia's top chefs at a glitzy dinner after the semi-finals of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition held in The Crown hotel's culinarium over the past two days.

Hottiaux, head chef and co-owner of French restaurant Apero Food & Wine, cooked her dish on Sunday and was a clear favourite of the judges after whipping up the tortellini which was filled with four different types of mushrooms - portobello, shitaki, oyster and button - burnt butter and pineut sauce on a bed of crème fraiche.

Hottaiux described her dish as "excellent" after cooking and was hoping for a win but was surprised yet proud to take it out.

"What I put on the plate was exactly what I wanted so it was great. I didn't think I would win. It's really cool. Go the women."

It was extra special recognition as the dish was made especially for her France-based parents who were coming to visit her restaurant for the first time.

Hottaiux now goes on to represent Australasia at the World finals of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition in Milan in October.

Meanwhile, earlier today, the last five of the 10 semi-finalists battled it out.

There wasn't much left of the wild deer that chef Josh Barlow, 28, brought to Melbourne.

The Grove's senior sous chef cooked the venison with hay smoked Jerusalem artichokes, wild mushrooms, crispy kale, venison haggis, burnt cream and smoked beetroot sauce.

"I've cooked the saddle and made a haggis out of the heart, the liver and the kidney from the same animal ... It was great fun, I really enjoyed myself. It was great to be able to stand and chat with the judges and talk about what your passionate about, talk about your dish, talk them through your thought process and how you come up with things, and why you're cooking what you're cooking."

The competition's youngest participant - 20-year-old Joshua Ross of Logan Brown in Wellington - also impressed the judges with his wild hare loin with shitake mushroom, gingerbread, pickled blackberries, meade gel and hazelnut meringue.

"The hare was something a bit different, I thought I would try it out...try and get the attention of the judges. It really went well with the wild blackberries which I foraged around Wellington for."

Despite being nervous before the event he eventually settled into his rhythm.

"It was a little bit stressful but it was more leading up to it, once you were in there it wasn't too bad."

Tom Hishon, head-chef and co-owner of Orphan's Kitchen in Auckland represented New Zealand in true Kiwi style with his South Island blackfoot paua, bullcow seawood, native spinach and cucumber.

"I just wanted to put together something that represented New Zealand," the 29-year-old said.

"It was quite relaxing, I didn't try to have too many components going on in my dish so I had a good amount of time. The judges are all super friendly and really interested in what you're putting up."

- NZ Herald

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