A young South Australian chef has taken out the top prize in the prestigious S. Pellegrino Young Chef Academy, a global talent search for the world's rising culinary stars.
Robin Wagner of Magill Estate Restaurant in Adelaide was named the regional winner, earning a place in the grand final, which will take place in Milan next year.
Wagner faced off against 10 young chefs from across Australia and New Zealand in the competition, which was judged by a renowned line up of leading Australian chefs, including Jacqui Challinor (Nomad), Josh Niland (Saint Peter) and Peter Gilmore (Quay).
Each young chef was asked to cook a single dish that showcased their personality and culinary journey thus far. The judges were wowed by Wagner's signature dish of smoked celeriac, Granny Smith apple and crisp taro. All three judges were surprised and delighted by the thoughtful vegan dish. "You took three ingredients, and through the sheer skill of your technique made it something incredible," said Niland.
Other dishes entered included a venison dish by New Zealand chef Jackson Mehlhopt, from Tussock Hill Vineyard, who hand-carried cuts of wapiti deer (an invasive species) from New Zealand to Sydney for the competition, to recognise food waste in all its different forms.
Simon Ming of Victoria's Amaru created a dish that celebrated heat and called on his dual Chinese and Australian heritage. Memories of smoking meat in his backyard with his grandfather were recalled by using smoked eucalyptus and creating a Sichuan-inspired sausage.
The awards were celebrated at an intimate industry dinner on Monday night at Seta Sydney, with a number of top chefs in attendance, as well as each of the finalists' professional mentors.
Alongside recognising young talent, a number of other awards were handed out, including the S.Pellegrino Award for Social Responsibility, which went to Alexis Belmas of La Petite Souris in the Sunshine Coast; the Acqua Panna Award for Connection in Gastronomy, awarded to Jackson Mehlhopt; and the Fine Dining Lovers Community Award to Leidy Carolina Maldonado Ramirez of Nu Nu Restaurant in Cairns.
The finals will take place in Milan in October 2023, with chef Peter Gilmore set to join Wagner at the global event.