WelTec chef tutor Frank Prskawetz, left, and Dominic Muollo-Gray, 22, right, representing New Zealand at the event Young Chef Olympiad.
From humble beginnings working in pizza restaurants, a young New Zealand chef has surpassed his own expectations by placing in an international cook-off.
Blenheim man Dominic Muollo-Gray returned from India earlier this month, after placing 11th out of 55 competitors in the Young Chef Olympiad 2020.
The WelTec chef student, who started his cooking career at Dominos and Hell’s Pizza, won the Plate Final with a lentil, cauliflower and pickled eggplant salad to start and a main dish of grilled tiger prawns with potato, a coconut sauce and a bisque.
“It’s pretty crazy, I definitely didn’t think I would get top 20,” he said.
It was different to MasterChef in that he knew his ingredients before going in, and had spent the past few months rigorously training for the competition.
So come competition, Muollo-Gray was racing against the clock, keeping his station clean, and making sure his “method” and “process” was perfect.
“There’s tasting judges and judges who watch you while you’re cooking and you get scored on each section.
“It’s a battle with both sides.”
The Young Chef Olympiad event was launched in 2015 and was now the world’s biggest young chef culinary competition.
This year’s theme was sustainability in hospitality, recognising the role of young culinary talent in leading the sustainability revolution.
The contest spanned five cities in India over six days: Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune and Goa.
Muollo-Gray’s favourite part of India was Bangalore.
It was still really busy, but it wasn’t as crowded and smoggy as New Delhi, he said.
Since returning from India, he had moved from Wellington to Blenheim and was on the lookout for a job at a local eatery where he could gain more experience and keep learning.
“At the moment it’s about making more opportunity out of what I’ve got,” he said.
“I think I’m just looking for a job I enjoy and where I’m learning, whatever comes down the line, we’ll face that.”
Muollo-Gray had been meeting up with WelTec chef tutor Frank Prskawetz once a week for five hours to practice, in the months leading up to the competition.
They would spend those hours planning, cooking and costing the recipes. Muollo-Gray also took out the award for Best Prepared Recipe Costing at the competition.
Prskawetz who accompanied Dominic to the event, said Muollo-Gray “just missed out on the grand final”.
“He did a fantastic job in very challenging conditions with very long hours, heat and lot of travel.”
“The breadth of his awards demonstrates what a great chef he is – he can not only make it look beautiful, but he showed strength on the business side too. We’re delighted he did so well.”