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The culinary arts profession is filled with challenges - sharp knives, allergic reactions to certain nuts and spices, and hot stoves.
Working with leeks is not traditionally one of them, but for Abby Johnson (16), they pose a problem, because they make her cry - more so than onions.
And when she and fellow Queen's High School pupil Lauren Wright (17) had to slice and dice large amounts of leeks to make their leek, feta and humus tartlet with balsamic glaze at the Southern Secondary Schools' Culinary Challenge in Timaru recently, they well and truly earned their selection for the national final in Auckland in September.
The duo had to prepare, cook and present four individually plated entrees and mains in 90 minutes.
The entrees had to contain fresh New Zealand-grown leek as the principal component, and the mains had to include at least three fresh New Zealand-grown vegetables and a chicken breast (skin on and bone in).
The duo won selection for the national final against competitors from secondary schools from Christchurch to Invercargill, with their tartlet entree and their main - chicken supreme with mushroom sauce, potato puree, tomato parachutes and buttered green beans.
''We're stoked,'' Lauren said.
''We're over the moon. And we're looking forward to going to Auckland and representing the southern region.''
They won a gift pack from vegetables.co.nz, a chef's jacket each to wear at the final, and more than $1000 for travel to the final.
Their school gets 20 Dudson plates for hospitality competitions and a $500 Bidvest voucher.
As yet, the girls have no idea what they will be expected to cook in the national final.
But Abby hopes it will not involve leeks.