Restaurant industry celebrates brightest young stars

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 11th August 2009

The finest young chefs and waiters in the Australian restaurant industry were rewarded last night at the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence national awards ceremony in Sydney.

Matthew Dempsey, from the renowned Pettavel Winery & Restaurant in Waurn Ponds (Victoria), received the coveted Electrolux Young Chef Award, with Alice Heath, from highly rated Montalto Vineyard & Olive Grove on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, named the Electrolux Young Waiter.

Matthew Dempsey, Danielle Gjestland, Luke Mangan, Alice Heath

Danielle Gjestland from Wasabi in Queensland’s Noosa Heads, claimed the inaugural Electrolux Young Restaurateur Award.

All three winners come from restaurants outside Australia’s capital cities.

Michelin Starred chef David Thompson, of Nahm in London, was the special guest at last night’s ceremony and a mentor for the 2009 awards.

The Thai food expert told those in attendance of his excitement with the depth of talent coming through the Australian restaurant industry.

“I’m extremely impressed with the high calibre of hospitality professionals Electrolux Appetite for Excellence attracted this year,” he said. “The three winners are truly inspirational and a credit to the wealth of hospitality talent in Australia. I look forward to seeing their professional careers develop internationally over the next few years.”

The awards, co-founded by Luke Mangan and Lucy Allon five years ago, were created to nurture the finest young performers in the competitive restaurant space.

The selection process this year took the state winners on a journey of some of Victoria’s leading food and wine regions to strengthen the understanding of the journey ‘from paddock to plate’. The week long tour culminated with a return to Sydney for the final judging where state chef finalists competed in a mystery box cook-off and state finalist waiters were tested in a series of customer skills and food and wine knowledge.

All finalists were put through their paces under careful scrutiny from a panel of Australia’s leading chefs and hospitality leaders including Tetsuya Wakuda, Guy Grossi, Cheong Liew and Luke Stringer.

Danielle, along with the three other Electrolux Young Restaurateur finalists, was interviewed by the judging panel, including Neil Perry and Christine Mansfield, before being selected as Australia’s most promising restaurant entrepreneur.

Matthew and Alice, the Electrolux Young Chef and Young Waiter award winners, now have the opportunity to represent Australia at the prestigious S. Pellegrino Cooking Cup in Venice – an event in which Australia placed third this year due to the efforts of last year’s winners Jake Nicholson and Leanne Altman.

Price Packages

* The Electrolux Young Chef and Electrolux Young Waiter prize package includes a once in a lifetime experience to represent Australia in the prestigious S.Pellegrino Cooking Cup in Venice as well as a trip to visit the source of two of the world’s most renowned Mineral waters, S.Pellegrino located in the Italian Alps and Acqua Panna positioned in the hills of Tuscany; return overseas flights provided by official airline partner Qantas; up to one month’s work experience at David Thompson’s Michelin Starred Restaurant, (Nahm, in London); a two day trip to historic Henschke in the Eden Valley, South Australia and tasting in the cellars with Stephen and Prue Henschke; Electrolux Professional appliances for the winner’s restaurant; $5,000 cash to assist with travel & work experience expenses; and a trophy.

^The Electrolux Young Restaurateur prize package includes return flights to London provided by Qantas to attend “The S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants”, in London; $10,000 cash prize; 12 months of business mentoring from the Commonwealth Bank; Electrolux Professional appliances for their restaurant; and the opportunity to meet Australia’s leading chefs and restaurateurs.