Twenty-two year old Liam Wilkie, who is perfecting his skills to be a professional chef at the Copthorne’s One80 Restaurant in Oriental Bay, won the ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef award at the NZ Hospitality Championships on the weekend.
The award recognises the outstanding achievement of aspiring chefs who craft a professional career by learning as they earn in a real, commercial kitchen with all the demands and pressures for excellent standards that the fast-paced environment brings.
ServiceIQ’s New Zealand Cookery Apprenticeship programme is the only one of its kind in the country.
A ninety-minute cook-off in the heat of the Apprentice Chef of the Year competition kitchen in Auckland saw Liam Wilkie triumph over fellow Wellingtonian Brooklyn O’Neil from Brew’d Boulcott, Reece Jesson from Five Stags in Pirongia, and Lorraine Va’afusuaga from The Old Vicarage Café Restaurant in Christchurch.
The inspiration for his winning ‘Taste of New Zealand’ dish – a sumac crusted loin of venison, burnt orange kumara and butter puree, honey-glazed baby golden beetroots, sherry glazed baby carrots and beetroot tuiles – came from his love of game hunting in the hills around Taranaki.
“When I was growing up I hunted for possum, red deer and rabbits. I really enjoyed making dishes with the food I got for my family which is another reason I love cooking,” said Wilkie.
He got his first taste for what he wanted to do in life at the age of 12, helping to prep food for weddings and events at a family friend’s catering business in his hometown of Hawera.
The job inspired him to study cookery and he was lucky enough to go straight from his high school hospitality course into an apprenticeship at the Copthorne Hotel.
ServiceIQ Hospitality Sector Manager Caro Anderson congratulates Liam who will soon complete his apprenticeship.
“His passion combined with impressive skills, knowledge and sheer tenacity is a prime example of the high-level of professionalism that can be achieved with the apprenticeship programme. We are extremely proud to have helped him craft his career. He clearly has a fantastic future ahead of him,” said Anderson.
As well as the coveted title, the award includes a week-long, all-expenses paid trip to the famous Melbourne Food & Wine Festival in 2019. exotic flavours of other countries.
Liam Wilkie’s winning ‘Taste of New Zealand’ dish: a sumac crusted loin of venison, burnt orange kumara and butter puree, honey-glazed baby golden beetroots, sherry glazed baby carrots and beetroot tuiles.