Aspiring chefs from across the Eastern Cape gathered for some serious fun and exciting cooking at the SPAR Junior Cook competition, which took place at the Pastryworks Cooking School in Port Elizabeth recently.
The five finalists were required to come prepared with one recipe of their choice for the first round while being given a mystery dish to concoct in the second.
A tantalising aroma wafted through the kitchen as Larnay Badenhorst (12) of Rowallan Park Primary School, Somangaye Mtywaru (13) of Victoria Park Primary School, Jessica Brown (13) of Woodridge Preparatory School, JD Duvenhage (13) of Cradock Primary School and Eben van Huyssteen (12) duked it out.
Judge Sacha van der Walt, a lecturer and chef at the cooking school, said he was blown away by the skills of the youngsters.
“This is the first year I’ve judged this competition and the level absolutely blew me away. I wasn’t expecting to see what I saw today.”
He said the competition, aimed at grade five to seven learners, had showcased some great talent.
“A lot of them have a great future and there are certainly a few I hope to see studying under me in this school.”
The first round saw a variety of dishes plated up, after which the young cooks’ baking skills were put to the ultimate test with the mystery dish – ginger cookies.
In the end, it was Brown who walked away as overall winner. The St Francis Bay local, who cooked homemade spaghetti and meatballs in the opening round, said she had spent hours practising in her mom’s kitchen.
“We’ve been eating meatballs for weeks,” testified her mother, Jo.
Having successfully executed her first dish, she turned her attention to the flavourful cookies, which were a first for her.
“I’ve never cooked ginger biscuits before, but I was excited they were the mystery dish because I love baking.”
SPAR Eastern Cape’s sponsorships and events manager Alan Stapleton said the cook-off was exceptionally close with finalists separated by a handful of points.
“The judges were all amazed that the kids, working from a blind recipe in the second round, just jumped in and could do it so well.”
Stapleton said the competition, now in its sixth year, was one that aligned with SPAR Eastern Cape’s values.
“SPAR and food are synonymous. Through food and cooking, we are able to bring families, fun and happiness together.”