Community is at the heart of Bianca Johnston's cooking, as is practising clever waste-minimisation techniques. "I always want to cook honest food with peak-season ingredients," she says. Cooking wasn't initially on Johnston's radar, but an appearance on My Kitchen Rules as a teenager sparked a new-found appreciation for food. "Cooking didn't come super naturally to me. I guess that's why it took me a long time to blossom," says the 2019 Appetite for Excellence Young Chef winner, "but hard work gets you there."
The 27-year-old first developed that work ethic as an apprentice at the now-shuttered Smolt Kitchen in Hobart, before she hit the stoves at Tom McHugo's, a revitalised gastro pub in Hobart's city centre. It's there that she has really honed the idea of what kind of cook she wants to be. Now, she's head chef at Igni, the acclaimed Victorian fine diner.
She says the crispy chicken rice is on heavy rotation at staff meals. "This recipe is about making the most of what you have. It came out of the need to use meat off the carcasses in a stock, but can also be made by poaching chicken wings."