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Kitchen heats up for young chef

CAPTION: Erica Gash, 19, has entered the national Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Jeunes Chefs competition to ‘give it a go’. PHOTO/SUPPLED

By Beckie Wilson

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For the first time for 10 years, a chef from Wairarapa will be entering a national culinary competition – and she will also be this year’s youngest competitor.

Erica Gash, 19, has a passion for cooking for others, but her nerves are at an all-time high with less than a month until the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Jeunes Chefs competition held in Wellington.

For the past couple of years, the culinary competition has been organised by Wairarapa’s Marc Soper, the executive chef at Wharekauhau Lodge.

The competition, open to chef’s younger than 27, offers the chance to cook in a competitive environment and the opportunity to succeed into the international arena.

Miss Gash is studying a Diploma in Culinary Arts in Tokoroa, but has worked at Wharekauhau Lodge for the past few summer holidays.

When she was four, her family moved to Kahutara in South Wairarapa.

“I went out [to Wharekauhau Lodge] for a birthday party when I was four, my aunty used to be the manager out there, and since then I wanted to work out there,” she said.

“I’ve worked in the Tokoroa coffee club so I’ve done all of that, like burger and fries and pizzas and stuff, so I wanted to do something a bit bigger to widen my skill range.”

She works under the guidance of Mr Soper who is helping her prepare for the competition.

“I’m really excited to give it a go… but I’m only a junior chef and I’m competing against 20-something year olds… but I’m willing to give it a shot.”

Each competitor will receive a box with ingredients that they will have to create a three-course menu – appetizer, main course and dessert – for four people.

They have four hours to prepare the menu and create their dishes.

She has a passion for cooking for others, she said.

“I remember when I was little on a Sunday, me and my mum would do baking — it was kind of traditional so it has gone on from there.”

She has not made any solid future plans, but after finishing the diploma she hopes to follow her dream and teach disabled children how to cook.

Mr Soper said this competition is “kind of under-cover” in New Zealand, but is huge overseas.

“It’s one of the hardest competitions out there,” he said.

To win the national title is “quite a big thing”.

“To travel overseas and to have that on their CV, they will be picked straight away.”

Mr Soper has been organising the competition for several years, as he thinks it is a great opportunity for budding chefs to have experience in the competition environment.

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