Gecko Culinary Adventures in Musgrave was abuzz last weekend as six young aspirant chefs took to the state-of-the-art cooking stations in this year’s KZN finals of the SPAR Junior Cook competition.
These senior primary school finalists battled it out for the title with twelve year old Ballito resident Ryleigh Rutherford from Maris Stella taking the honours with a delectable and flawless cheese cake. Twelve year old Tiana Gangaram from Pelham Senior Primary School in Pietermaritzburg was runner up with a superb tuna tart, which completely converted one non-fish eating judge.
Runners up were Olivia Elliot (12) also from Maris Stella on the Berea who made a Italian chicken dish, Kuyanda Sibisi (12) from Durban Primary in Umbilo with stuffed potato skins, Kirsten Short (11) from Durban Girls College, also on the Berea, with a chocolate coffee cake, and Callan Canham (11) from Collingwood Senior Primary in Wentworth with a stacked pancake cake.
The annual cook-off involved the youngsters preparing a recipe that they had submitted as their competition entry, as well as a mystery dish – a ginger bread family - that was given to them following the completion of the first dish.
One of the judges, SPAR Advertising and Promotions Manager, Nelene Rampersad who was instrumental in conceptualizing the competition for SPAR in an effort to encourage young chefs, said “I love that this year we had such a range of dishes from the finalists. This made judging difficult, and our taste-buds were put to the test, but after much deliberation, Ryleigh’s Cheese Cake came out tops. It was faultless – a great presentation, and top-class texture and flavour. Her gingerbread man was done to perfection with a crisp texture, with some fun iced decorations. Well done to all for the good food, great spirit and enthusiasm.”
Ryleigh won a R5,000 shopping voucher for her first place position with runner up Tiana Gangaram receiving a R2,000 shopping voucher and all four remaining finalists each received a R500 SPAR shopping voucher. All finalists received a SPAR sweet hamper and a hamper packed with baking utensils to further their culinary aspirations.
“It was really fun,” says Ryleigh, who has always helped her mum in the kitchen ever since she can remember, “I enjoyed making my cheese cake here today. It was so exciting to work in a professional kitchen.”
Participant comments for Regional Papers
Berea: Oliva, who confesses to often making a mess in the kitchen, but does clean up, says “I love to bake and cook a lot and I especially love to make vanilla sponges and decorate them. I sometimes also cook for my family.”
PMB: Tiana started baking about a year ago says “Sometimes I am allowed to be alone in the kitchen and that is great fun. I especially love to make breakfast of pancakes and crumpets for my family.”
Berea / Umbilo: Kuyanda, who started baking two years ago, says she likes to bake, “especially chocolate muffins and vanilla scones,” which she adds “are eaten mostly by my brother!”
Berea: Kirsten who has been interested in cooking for about a year, says “I really enjoyed making my chocolate coffee cake today in this professional kitchen – it was fun.”
Bluff / Wentworth: Callan says “I have always been busy in the kitchen having tea parties since as long as I can remember. I especially love to make pancakes for my family.”