Cook-off contest hat-trick for college chef

University of Otago cook-off  competition winners Rani Cohen (left) and Dylan Henry, from Aquinas...
University of Otago cook-off competition winners Rani Cohen (left) and Dylan Henry, from Aquinas College, pose with mystery ingredient Dilmah black tea. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Success is sweet for the head chef at Aquinas College, who has whisked away top prize at a University of Otago cook-off for the third time.

Chef Dylan Henry and his colleague, first-time competitor Rani Cohen (22), won the annual Residential College Chef of the Year competition with a venison-based dish featuring beetroot puree, kumara chips and roast vegetables, followed by strawberry and chocolate fondant cake.

The pair had 70 minutes to produce two courses, which had to include mystery ingredient Dilmah black tea.

Mr Henry ended up adding it to gravy, while Mr Cohen used it in the fondant cake sauce.

University union catering manager Gary McNeill said 11 of the university's 15 residential halls took part in the competition in the Link building last week, drawing hundreds of spectators.

The MasterChef-like competition gave the university's college chefs, who were producing millions of meals for students each year, a chance to showcase their abilities, Mr McNeill said.

The judges, from Otago Polytechnic, Vault 21 and Southern Hospitality, had all travelled the world to judge and compete in cooking competitions.

"[They] always comment on how fantastic and professional their [the college chefs'] food is.

"I'm just so proud of what [the university chefs] are capable of doing," Mr McNeill said.

Some of the college chefs chose to include the tea by smoking the food with the tea, while others used it as a marinade or in a sauce.

Mr Henry has also cooked for Cumberland College, during which time he was on the winning team twice.

At Aquinas, he and the team of about 14 prepared meals for more than 156 students each day.

Each time he participated he had a new cooking partner, so each competition was different, he said. He had also won places on several occasions during the 10 years the competition had been running.

In second place was Arana College team Brain Galvin and Liz Benn, and Toroa College cooks Sumi Yoo and Tracey Leishman were third.

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