RECIPE: Oxtail, Popcorn, Pyengana Cheddar, Pickles, Lime

2018 Finalist Rhys Connell created this delicious canape for the 2018 Appetite for Excellence Awards Evening

7kg Oxtail
5 x Carrots
4 x Stalks of Celery
2 x Heads of Garlic
1 x Bunch of Thyme
5 x Fresh Bay leaves
15g Back Peppercorns
4 x Star anise
8 x pieces of Clove
2 x Sticks of 15cm Kombu
750g Madeira
800g Soy
500g Mirin
250g Shrio Dashi
10 x Ears of Corn
8 x Limes
8g Kuzu Starch
6 x leaves of Gold Gelatin
200g Butter
3 x Jars of McClure’s Spicy whole pickles
1.2 kg Pyengana Cheddar Cheese
1.2 kg Popcorn
1.2 kg Rye Crumbs
800g Cornstarch
400g Finley ground Polenta

For the Oxtail

Coat Oxtail in ground white pepper, and using a little oil, brown in a large stockpot in batches. Once completed, tip excess oil out of pan and wipe, deglaze the pot with Madeira but don’t reduce. Add to the pot the oxtail along with 10L of water, Peeled whole carrots, whole celery, halved garlic, peppercorns, star anise, cloves, kombu thyme and bay leaves, soy, mirin and shiro dashi. If the liquid does not cover the oxtail, top up with water. Braise until tender and meat is falling off the bone around 4 hours. Once cool enough to the touch pick meat from bones making sure to separate the cartilage and small bones in the process. Run a knife through the meat to cop finely. In a large mixing bowl, mix meat and about a cup of the braising liquid together and using your hands mush meat up making a firm mix. Place enough meat mix into a cryovac bags and press flat to make a sheet of meat mix about 75mm high. Sous-vide and seal. Using a rolling pin, roll bags evenly and flat. Chill mix for around an hour. You will need to keep the mix cold while you work from here. Cut mix out of bags but keep in flat sheets. Cut fingers 800mm in length x 75mm x 75mm of the cold oxtail mix and freeze on a tray.


For Corn and Lime

Cut the Kernels from the corn and blend to make a corn juice, pass through muslin cloth for a fine bright yellow juice. Soak gelatin leaves and hydrate kuzu Starch. Place the corn juice in a pan and gently heat while stirring with a spatula, watch as the juice begins to thicken and stop from catching on the bottom of the pan, when you have the texture of thick cream, mount the butter into the corn puree, add kuzu starch and cook for a further 2 minutes while still stirring. To finish add in gelatin and mix till melted. Cool over ice bath. Once cool whisk to a smooth puree and pass to remove any lumps, season with lime zest, and salt. Add just a little limejuice, to have a sauce similar in texture and flavor as aioli.


Popcorn Crumb

Cut the crust off of the rye bread and slice thinly, dry in a dehydrator overnight. Once dry, blend to a fine crumb. Blend the popcorn to a similar texture. Reserve


To Crumb Oxtail

Make a slurry of cornstarch and finely ground polenta, crumb fingers of oxtail in popcorn crumbs.


Deep fry Fingers of Oxtail in oil at 180c until crisp and brown, making sure the meat is warm in the center.

Pipe corn mix on top of the fingers and place a little of the finely dice pickles on top, shave Pynegana Cheddar over the top and serve.

2018 Produce Tour – South Australia

If you ask most chefs, waiters and restaurateurs what matters most in their restaurant, they’ll probably tell you that it’s sourcing top quality, seasonal ingredients. 

With this in mind, each year we take our talented young professionals – the cream of the crop who have reached the final round of the Appetite for Excellence program – on a three day, all expenses paid produce tour to meet and learn from incredible farmers, producers and growers.

In July our Young Chef, Waiter and Restaurateur National Finalists flew with partner Virgin Australia to Adelaide to tour South Australia’s rich produce regions including the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley and Port Adelaide. 

They were joined on the tour with Mitch Edwards from Porkstar, Mary-Jane Morse from Rare Medium and A4X Alumni Mal Meiers who represented RUOK.

The food safari started at Richard Gunners Fine Meat Processing in Mt Barker before heading to Ngeringa Farm, stopping off at Summertown Aristologist before winding up at Lost in a Forest. 

The following day, they rose early to head to Danni Mansfields free range pig farm in Mt Pleasant before spending the day at Saskia Beer Produce Masterclass at Pheasant Farm where they learn to break down a pig and make sausages whilst our waiters and restaurateurs did wine masterclasses with Phil Lehman from Max and Me, David Franz from Franz Wines and John Hughes from Riesling Freak. Our group also created their own gin with the Barossa Valley Gin School. The day wrapped up with an Inspired Series talk with Luke Mangan and Simon Byrant who chatted about the pressures of the industry and how to create a work/life balance.

Day 3 was spent at Port Adelaide, visiting the Hiramasa Kingfish Processing Plant at Cleanseas, visiting Two Gulf Crabs where the group learnt to break down crabs and cook Goolwa Pippis. The afternoon was spent at the Port Admiral Hotel in Port Adelaide before the group jet setted with Virgin back to their cities.

Want to be part of next year’s program? Applications for the 2019 Appetite for Excellence Awards open in February, so follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more details

2018 Awards Evening

Appetite for Excellence 2018 winners were announced at an awards ceremony at Luke’s Kitchen in Sydney. Now in its thirteenth 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.

2018 also marks the first year Appetite for Excellence has joined forces with The Inspired Series, a development program that enables students, apprentices and young hospitality workers to gain insight from some of the country’s top chefs, waiters and restaurateurs on their experiences, providing them with career advice, tips and support within in the industry.

This year’s panel of new and returning judges boasted some of Australia’s biggest culinary names, including Luke Mangan (Luke’s Kitchen), Analiese Gregory (Franklin) and Kylie Javier Ashton (Momofuku Seiobo), Peter Gilmore (Quay, Bennelong), Sam Christie (The Apollo, Cho Cho San), Duncan Welgemoed (Africola), Danielle Gjestland (Wasabi), and Lisa Van Haandel (Longrain, Longsong), among others.

Luke Mangan, who founded both the Appetite for Excellence and The Inspired Series programs, remarked at the standard of applicants for 2018: “Once again, this year’s calibre of entrants has been nothing short of outstanding. The 2018 winners and runners-up of the awards represent some of this country’s finest hospitality talent and it’s my hope that the opportunities offered by this program help give them the tools to succeed and further their careers in our industry.”

The 2018 Appetite for Excellence program saw applications increase by 20% on the previous year, with applicants from seven states, and a 400% increase on female applicants.

Appetite for Excellence 2018 winners are:

Australian Young Waiter 2018

Winner: Tyler Austin, Stokehouse Q QLD

One to watch: Olivia Evans, Paper Daisy Restaurant NSW

Australian Young Chef 2018

Winner: Max Sharrad, Shobosho SA

One to watch: Jessi McEwan, Hogget Kitchen VIC

Australian Young Restaurateur 2018

Winner: Cam O’Keefe, CENTRA VIC

The program has an unparalleled record of discovering Australia’s best new talent, with Josh Niland (Saint Peter), Thi Le (Anchovy), Jake Kellie (Burnt Ends), James Viles (Biota) and Adam  D’Sylva (Coda and Tonka), among a long list of names that have come through the program.

For highlights – check our our instagram @appetiteforexcellence

2017 state & national finalists announced

We’ve selected this year’s young guns after careful consideration. They’ll now converge on Sydney to face a series of skills testing and interviews with the judges; Christine Manfield, Peter Gilmore, Luke Mangan, Danielle Gjestland, David Pynt, Lisa van Haandel, Guy Grossi to name but a few. Follow their progress here on our website,  FacebookInstagram and Twitter feeds.

2017 electrolux australian young restaurateur national finalists

Cameron O’Keefe Centra, vic
Daniel Moss Terroir Auburn, sa
Erinn Jordan The Catbird Seat Bistro qld
Thi Le  Anchovy, vic


2017 electrolux australian young waiter state finalists

Andrew Gale Grossi Florentino, vic
George Papaioannou Sixpenny, nsw
Gui Fen Wong Golden Boy, sa
James Boden St Hugo, sa
Lara Graham Wasabi Restaurant & Bar, sa
Mia McIntyre e’cco bistro, qld
Morgan Golledge Blackbird Bar & Grill qld
Richard Trezzi Otto Ristorante, nsw
Stacey Paris Otto Ristorante, nsw
Tatum Rumble Quay Restaurant, nsw


2017 electrolux australian young chef state finalists

Adrian Hart Bennelong, nsw
Alanna Sapwell Saint Peter, nsw
Anthony Hales Thomson’s Reserve, qld
Ben McShane Kiyomi, The Star, qld
Ben Thies Clarke’s of North Beach, wa
Charley Snadden-Wilson Embla, vic
Clement Vachon Wasabi Restaurant & Bar, qld
Daniel Cooper Garden State Hotel, vic
Daniel Murphy St Hugo, sa
Josh Raine Urbane, qld
Khanh Nguyen Cirrus Dining, nsw
Minho Han Appellation, sa
Shui Ishizaka Bennelong Restaurant, nsw

Australian Young Chef 2017 finalists announced

After almost a month of deliberations, we’re excited to announce our 2017 young chef finalists who are coming to Sydney next week to meet our judges. It’s going to be an intense few days where one of their dishes will be scrutinised by industry heavyweights David Pynt, Duncan Welgemoed, Peter Doyle, Richard Ousby & Troy Rhoades-Brown.  It’s not all high pressure though, they’ll be getting feedback & tips from our panel during their individual interviews. Follow their progress here on our website,  Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds.


2017 electrolux australian young chef finalists

Adrian Hart Bennelong, nsw
Alanna Sapwell Saint Peter, nsw
Alicia Englefield InterContinental, sa
Anthony Hales Thomson’s Reserve, qld
Ben McShane Kiyomi, The Star, qld
Ben Thies Clarke’s of North Beach, wa
Brendan Anderson Stokehouse, vic
Cameron Tabe Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant, sa 
Charley Snadden-Wilson Embla, vic
Clement Vachon Wasabi Restaurant & Bar, qld
Daniel Cooper Garden State Hotel, vic
Daniel Garwood Sixpenny, nsw
Daniel Murphy St Hugo, sa
Daniel Plain Longyard Hotel, nsw
Elliot Platz Homage Restaurant, qld
Floyd Armstrong East Bar and Dining, vic
Jonathon Outred Tickety Boo, wa
Josh Raine Urbane, qld
Khanh Nguyen Cirrus Dining, nsw
Mathew Lee Cutty Sark Bar & Restaurant, qld
Matthew Bugeja The Dolphin Hotel, nsw
Matthew Hammond Woodland House, vic
Matthieu Miller Terrace Restaurant, vic
Mehrish Malik Tonka, vic
Minho Han Appellation, sa
Ryan Dolan La Fettuccina, qld
Shui Ishizaka Bennelong Restaurant nsw
Thomas Gorringe The Gantry Restaurant, nsw
Tim Goegan Supernormal, vic
Timothy Chittenden Georgie Bass Café & Cookery, vic
Tom Jack Coast Restaurant, qld


Stay tuned, we will be announcing our young waiter state finalists and restaurateur national finalists next week!



Recipe: Wallis Lake Bonito in warm pickle of tarragon and garlic

A highlight of the national finalists produce tour through NSW this year was having the opportunity to cook for the fisher community of Wallis Lake at a pop up restaurant at the Forster Tuncurry race track. The young chefs chose from that morning’s catch thanks to the Wallis Lake Fisherman’s Co-Op. Below is the recipe for the Wallis Lake Bonito the team of young chef Zack Furst; young waiter Morgan Golledge & young restaurateur Dave Parker put together for the dinner. Morgan recommends matching, ‘I would go an Italian white blend like Occhipinti Bianco. Something with texture but still great acidity and slight oxidative nuttiness. If you can get your hands on that it’s a winner otherwise Brash Higgins Zibbibo or anything premium with skin contact, depth and driving acid’.

Ingredients – serves 4

1 x whole bonito – you can ask your fish monger to gut & scale if you prefer

1 x cucumber

100g shallots

1 bunch tarragon

2 x garlic cloves

50mls olive oil

200ml sweet chardonnay vinegar

Pinch  sugar

Flaked salt to taste


For the Bonito

* Wash and gut bonito
* Fillet bonito, then remove ribs and then slice down the spine separating the top fillet and belly.
* Finally carve out the pin bones wipe dry and sit in a stainless steel deep tray.

For the Finishing Salad

* With 50g shallots slice super fine and place in steel bowl.
* Then julienne the cucumber
* Fold through shallots and dress with a small amount of olive oil and salt

For the warm pickle

* Slice 50g of the shallots and the 2 garlic cloves thinly,
* Place in a medium size pot and cover with sweet Chardonnay vinegar and 100mls of water.
* Bring to a slow simmer, add tarragon, olive oil and allow to steep for 45 minutes.
* Season with salt and a small amount of sugar.

To finish

* Bring the warm pickle to a simmer then pour over bonito.
* Allow the bonito to steep for 20 minutes.
* Remove fillets onto paper towel.
* Finally place fillets neatly in the centre of desired dish
* Then cover fish in the fresh  finishing salad
* Add some flaked salt and serve with lemon slices.

When your kitchen garden is a stunning 2000 acres

Restaurants and chefs are getting more involved in understanding the supply chain of how their produce arrives to their door and how it is grown.  It goes beyond the source to researching the principals behind the farmers, their practices and philosophy. For the last few years, they and restaurateurs have been taking it a step further purchasing their own farms that are way more than the kitchen garden.

Located in the Strathbogie Ranges in Victoria sits Oak Valley Farm, a 2000 acre farm. With a remarkable range of produce – from livestock to fruit from the orchards and vegetables in the garden – it’s a chefs delight. But in this instance it is just one chef, Simon Tarlington, the head chef at Highline Restaurant in Windsor that has sole use of the produce. Both the farm and the restaurant (located in The Railway Hotel) are owned by Wayne Sullivan who as luck would have it has a love of good food and wine. We spoke to chef Simon Tarlington to hear how he works with the farm to create dishes for the menu and restaurant;

What is produced on the farm and how do you decided what to use? 

We can’t produce everything at the farm but what we do produce we utilise on the menus as a main component such as beef, lamb, pork, honey, eggs, fruit from the orchards and heirloom vegetables from the gardens. What we can’t grow at the farm, such as seafood, we source from like- minded suppliers that strongly believe in creating a sustainable supply chain that is low on food miles and contributes to rather than detracts from the environment.

Whilst I try to get up to the farm as often as I can, with the demands of the kitchen this is not as regularly as I would like. But when creating new menus, or when the is a change of season I make sure that I spend as much time at Oak Valley as possible. This helps inspire me too. Otherwise, every week I meet with the owner (Wayne Sullivan) who spends 5 days a week at the farm and General Manger Peter McCormack to discuss what’s growing, being harvested, planted, or needs to be utilised and when the livestock is ready. It’s a little different to ordering direct from suppliers especially with livestock as you need to allow additional time for the livestock to be butchered after the abattoir.

young chef, waiter & restaurateur 2017 applications are open. Why not apply?

What is satisfying about being able to source your ingredients this way?

My cooking philosophy is farm to table focusing on fresh flavours, seasonal produce and sustainable practices. I have always believed in supporting local suppliers and farmers that highlight the best of our vast range of unique produce within Australia. Working at Highline and Oak Valley has given me a better understanding of farm to table.  I get a great deal of satisfaction from planting a seed, watching it grow and eventually being able to use the end produce on a dish.

By being involved in the process it has given me the utmost respect for all farmers and the amount of work that goes into creating produce. It also provides you with a much greater appreciation of how reliant we are on mother nature. This has taught my team and I to utilise these products in the best way possible, pushing us as chefs to create new and interesting menu items with no waste.


What are the farm values & how does this tie in to your food and restaurant philosophy?

Our farming philosophy is quite simple, that is, minimal intervention and only using sustainable practices. We use organic fertilizers sourced locally from a poultry farm along with the horse stud on our pastures. We do not deep rip our paddocks, we use solar power on our pumps, we manually control weeds, we do not do any broad acre spraying, we do not overgraze our land ie we have a low stocking density, we parallel rip to reduce soil erosion and we are a member of the Burnt Creek Landcare Group. As a result of our plantations we are carbon positive and our produce has very low food miles. All of this ties in with our food and restaurant philosophy of sustainability. If a product has not grown to the way we were predicting we have no choice but to utilise it in any way we can. Fallen fruits and overgrown vegetables are feed to the pigs, food scraps, coffee grinds and old shredded menus are collected in the hotel and used for compost. Excess produce is used for preserves and meats are cured.


Farm aside, how do you continue to evolve as a chef?

I read a lot, talk to other chefs and dine out whenever I have a chance. I always continue to evolve as a chef by incorporating new ingredients, refining my technique and learning new things every day from my work colleagues, farmers and suppliers. There is so much changing in our industry everyday and it would be ignorant of me to turn my back on new ideas.


Did participating in Appetite for Excellence help you in anyway and if so in what way?

As a national finalists in 2014, I was asked lots of question on my beliefs of the industry, trends and my philosophy throughout program . If it wasn’t for these questions I don’t think I would have ever stopped to think about the path I wanted to take in the industry, where I wanted my career to go and my impact on the supply chain.


The success and failure of the Wallis Lake Fisherman’s Co-Op is driven by its people

Wallis Lake Fisherman’s Co-operative by Andy Day & Cam Cansdell

Established in 1947 to become the voice of the local fisherman in the area of Forster Tuncurry and the central receiving depot to handle the daily catch & distribution, the Co-op members today are made up of the children; grandchildren and great grandchildren of the original fisherman.

The cooperative itself stands not to make a profit (and hopefully not a loss!) but to represent the collective will of its members and improve the profitability and welfare of the 50 active and 40 non-active shareholders.

Several years ago the Co-op found itself on its knees in a state of financial disrepair, facing bankruptcy, and fighting to keep shareholders.

70% of the Co-ops activities on the water take place on Wallis Lake itself and its surrounding estuaries and this is where we find ourselves today, observing and absorbing the passion of the Co-op’s Operations Manager Suzie McEnallay, member Danny Elliott and the Co-op Chairman Greg Colby.


Blessed with blue skies and crystal-clear water for the day it’s easy to be lulled into the belief that life’s a breeze here in paradise.

However, like many primary production industries the fishing community faces pressures. Several years ago the Co-op found itself on its knees in a state of financial disrepair, facing bankruptcy, and fighting to keep shareholders.

Droughts affect the Co-op just as badly as agricultural industries inland and on the coast. A lack of rain means a lack of nutrients entering the estuaries, in turn providing less food for the aquatic food chain and reducing fish stocks.

Commercial pressures and compliance with regulations are constantly evolving and can only be properly managed by a collective; “how do we market our 3 ‘U’s (undervalued, under fished, underused species)?”,”how do we best make people aware this is Australian fish, and not imported?” and “how do we do business with Woolworths and not get pressured?”

The most impressive lesson from today was learning not WHAT the challenges were but rather HOW and WHY the community took them head on.

Facing bankruptcy less than a decade ago the Co-op’s board of directors made the bold decision to effectively ‘freeze’ shares, meaning no member could sell their share(s) until 2019. This was a clever solution to secure what capital the co-op had at the time and create an ongoing commitment from their members (a large proportion of whom are now the non-active shareholders having since retired) that the co-op must endure and succeed for the individual shareholders to themselves survive. Beyond that the shareholders effectively bought more shares to build up the Co-ops capital and help it pay off debts. Only a tight community has the courage to band together at such times, and only an extraordinary one has the strength to survive it.

They face the distinct possibility of running out of fisherman over the next 30 years with an average active shareholder age of 54. This is further compounded by a stemming of generational fishing families; the next generation are either told not to or don’t want to become professional fishermen.

young fisher, 18 year old Jack Freeman Suzie McEnallaydeccreatives-5146

With almost no young, skilled fishermen coming through the ranks in the next decade it was vitally important for the Co-op to assist 18 year-old Jack in securing a grant from the Rural Assistance Authority to begin the process of acquiring fishing license endorsements so that they could build up and sustain their shareholder base. The process to obtain a commercial fishing license in NSW is quite a lengthy & intricate process. Even the governments’ own guide to commercial fisheries says that ‘due to the complex nature of the NSW commercial fishing arrangements it is impossible to produce a simple guide that is guaranteed to fully explain all aspects. The law and policies are also subject to change, so anyone who wishes to fully understand all elements of the current arrangements must not rely solely on this guide’.

And by working with the FRDC (Fisheries Research and Development Corporation) the Co-op can more effectively influence, through education and research, the market factors that create the “3 U’s” and can generate a better revenue stream by successfully marketing species like Luderick and Mullet that are in such strong supply in Wallis Lake.


The Wallis Lake Fishermans Co-operative is blessed with a wealth of pristine resources and hard-working, passionate individuals that form a sum greater than all the parts. Their methods and resourcefulness is the key to their success and is something to be admired and imitated by any business willing to create a more collaborative and egalitarian environment for business.


designing chefs: mal meiers is pottering around..

These days it’s not enough for young chefs to just be designing delectable dishes on a daily basis they’re putting their talents into other avenues specifically the tools of their trades… We’ve seen chefs input into the designing of kitchens in new venues, choosing the crockery and tableware to the music that’s played during service. Some chefs are taking it even one step further in their quest for total creative control and making their own plates and knives. Mal Meiers is one such chef and is making his own plates for his food & wine pop-ups and charity dinners. The results are fairly spectacular… But we’ll let you be the judge!

What inspired you to start making your own plates? 

Initially I started making plates because I wanted to be able to create the plate I put a dish I created on.

How did you get involved with the pottery communities in Melbourne and Sydney?

I started by searching for wheel throwing courses in my local area, which lead me to do a six week course at Northcote pottery. I discovered the space was set up perfectly to practice after the initial course.

After relocating to Sydney I again searched and came across Claypool, an amazing group of experienced ceramicists in Botany. A handful of potters decided to create a space that would act as a community of like-minded creative people as much as a space due to the lack of one in Sydney.

A lot of chefs are turning their hands to creating & producing ‘tools of their trade’ why do you think this is? What are the benefits?

I think that as a chef because it allows you the opportunity to have multiple passions due to the multitude of artisan paths within a career. For some chefs it may be gardening, bread, making knives or making plates.

I think the benefits are you can have more creative freedom in some aspects, for me with my plates, I can create something for myself no one else will have. Or it allows me create something for a specific purpose like my Food + Wine pop-ups and Beyondblue charity dinners.


Where are you using the plates?

Towards the end of 2016 I made plates to use at Food for Thought, the two charity dinners I organised that took place in November  2016 to raise funds for beyondblue, (Mal raised over $19,000 for beyondblue in 2016). I also use the plates for my business the Food + Wine pop up which takes up 3-4 week residences in various locations.

Do you have a signature style?

Style? I would say more of a quirk. Yes I like making organic shaped plates so I shape my plates around different fruits and vegetables. You can take the chef out of the kitchen but not the kitchen out of the chef!

Any monumental disasters from when you started out?

Biggest disaster would probably be when I had a glaze that shrunk at a different rate to the clay I was using for a particular effect and I had to make about 120  avocado ramekins for my friends at Persillade in Melbourne to give them the 20 they wanted.


Living back in Sydney, you’ve been visiting Claypool to make your plates? What do they do and how did you get involved?

It’s just an amazing environment they are very helpful, supportive. As a business it’s more of a community. Everything is there and you meet a wide variety of potters all with different styles and everyone is open to sharing.

Any plans to take bespoke orders or are you more interested in producing for yourself?

To be honest I’m still figuring it out, I’ve only been doing a couple of years. It’s also a labour of love and I’m currently committing most of my time to Bennelong and Food for Thought besides I am so busy at the moment, I wouldn’t be have the time to fulfill orders anyway.

Interested in spinning the wheel? Mal recommends the following;

Claypool in Sydney

Northcote Pottery in Melbourne

Carlton Arts Centre in Melbourne

Mal says, ‘I used to more often than not bump into Dave Verheul from town mouse here while expanding my glaze selection’.

We found these;

Clayschool in Brisbane

Adelaide Potters Club in Adelaide