Tuesday 6 August 2019
The 2019 Appetite for Excellence winners were announced tonight at an awards ceremony at Glass Brasserie, Hilton Sydney. Now in its 14th year, the national awards program continues to attract the best of Australia’s food industry each year, to celebrate and nurture young talent and the future of the hospitality industry.
The 2019 winners tell a strong story about the high quality of hospitality talent in Australia. All three winners across the categories are currently working in restaurants outside of major cities, and of the five winners and ones to watch, four are female.
The 2019 Appetite for Excellence winners are:
2019 Appetite for Excellence Young Chef
Winner: Bianca Johnston, Tom McHugo’s TAS
One to Watch: Anna Ugarte-Carral, Momofuku Seiobo NSW
2019 Appetite for Excellence Young Waiter
Winner: Olivia Evans, Fleet NSW
One to Watch: Sophie Gitterle, Quay Restaurant NSW
2019 Appetite for Excellence Young Restaurateur
Winner: Luke Piccolo, Limone Dining NSW
The winners were announced off the back of a detailed two-month judging process. Prior to the awards ceremony, the national finalists came together for the annual produce tour - three days of workshops and hands on learning experiences with producers, which this year took place in New South Wales across the Southern Highlands and South Coast.
This year, the prestigious panel of judges who are Australia’s hospitality leaders worked collectively to appoint the winner of each category, with the final decision being made at a lunch in June prepared by Appetite for Excellence 2016 Young Chef winner Aaron Ward of Ester. The judges included Jo Barrett, Peter Gilmore, Guy Grossi, Analiese Gregory, Luke Mangan, Dan Hunter, Martin Benn, Kylie Javier-Ashton, Phil Wood, Dan Puskas, Andrew McConnell, Danielle Gjestland, Lisa van Haandel, James Viles, Troy Rhoades-Brown, Richard Ousby and Marilyn Annecchini.
“I believe it is important to have programs like Appetite for Excellence for the next generation to give them great experience and potential exposure that could help shape their career,” said Peter Gilmore, who has been involved with the program for nine years. Of the judging process, Gilmore said: “There is definitely a system the judges use for scoring that covers things you’d expect like taste, presentation etc. But we also trust our instincts when it comes to choosing the winner. It’s sometimes pretty obvious the young chefs that have that little bit extra - positivity, openness and passion.”
The 2019 applications were of an incredibly high standard yet again. Luke Mangan, co-founder of Appetite for Excellence said: “Every year I am blown away by the level of talent that comes through the program. More impressive though is the passion that each of these national finalists has for what they do. We had a group that was nothing short of outstanding and proved to me how valuable the time we as the judges spend with the group can be, hopefully guiding them to make the best decisions in their career and helping to set them up for successful careers in Australia’s restaurants.”
Of being involved in the program, Bianca Johnston, the 2019 Appetite for Excellence Young Chef winner said: “This year was my second year entering Appetite for Excellence. The most rewarding part of the program has been the access to the judges’ feedback. This has helped me to understand my strengths and weaknesses in cooking and made me aware of the type of food I want to cook. As a winner, I’m now presented with the unique opportunity to stage overseas and continue to add to the extensive network of mentors I’ve been given access to. I’m excited to step outside my normal work environment and learn from the producers, suppliers and customers I meet along the way, and become a better chef overall.”
These winners will add to an already extremely highly regarded list of Australian hospitality talent who have come through the program over the years, including Josh Niland (Saint Peter), Thi Le (Anchovy), Jake Kellie (Burnt Ends), James Viles (Biota) and Adam D’Sylva (Coda and Tonka).
In addition to the chef, waiter and restaurateur categories, Appetite for Excellence and Perrier challenge Australia’s bartenders to create a modern Perrier Aperitivo cocktail using Perrier mineral water. This year’s competition was judged by two of Australia’s best bartenders: Luke Ashton, Diageo’s 2013 World Class Bartender of the Year and owner of This Must Be The Place and Jenna Hemsworth, Head Bartender at Restaurant Hubert, 2018 Australian Bartender of the Year and 2019 Australian Bacardi Legacy Champion.
The 2019 Perrier Aperitivo competition winner is Matty Opai from Icebergs Dining Room and Bar.
Appetite for Excellence is made possible by dedicated partners who understand the importance of investing in the future of the Australian hospitality industry. Major partners include: Tourism Australia, S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, Perrier and Parmalat Professional and Official Airline partner, Virgin Australia. Supporting partners include: PorkStar, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), Rare Medium and TAFE NSW. Event partners include: Glass Brasserie, Hilton Sydney, Vic’s Premium Quality Meats, L.J. Parthenos and Sons, Chef Works Australia, Leading Teams, Joto Fresh Fish and Unico Zelo wines.