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Runner up of the South African Young Chef of the Year competition and Selby College student reveals how he found his passion for cooking

Ben Gillmister, Level 2 Hospitality and Catering student at Selby College, discusses how he wowed the judges of the global South African Young Chef of the Year competition, his love for South African cooking and what he plans to do now…

How did you get into cooking?

If I remember correctly, it was back in Primary school when my school ran an ‘activities day’ that covered a range of careers. I honestly think that is what stemmed my love for food and cooking even further. I also loved watched cookery shows and Chefs on TV.

If I had to say who has the biggest influence on me, it would have to be Ainsley Harriot or  Jamie Oliver or the Hairy Bikers (David Myers and Si King).


What is your favourite cuisine/dish to cook?

There are a few - but I would probably have to say British Modern Indian or even Italian.


How has your College course helped you to progress your cooking skills?

I think my College course has helped me to develop both my skills and knowledge within both the kitchen, food and beverage service. It has greatly helped me understand the different cookery techniques that there is within the industry; such as Sous Vide Cookery.

What made you enter the South African Young Chef of the Year competition and what do you love about South African Cookery?

I entered because I wanted a new challenge and to push myself even further with my cookery skills. I knew such a competition would look great on my CV and I hoped that it would help to separate me from rest of the crowd! What pushed me even further was the positive encouragement of both my tutors Adrian and Liz who noticed that I had the potential to do the competition and help me with the process.

I enjoy the flavours that South African food can bring and that South African cookery can be so varied in terms of cooking techniques and flavours.

What did you enjoy the most about the Competition?
I found that the research and exploration of different ingredients that can be used in South African cooking was the most enjoyable thing for me. For instance, in South Africa they have Springbok, which is part of the Antelope family. Springbok is very similar to Venison in the UK in terms of flavour and texture.

Overall, I enjoyed learning about the different types of cookery and techniques that could be used during my cook off.


What are your plans now?

After my experience of the South African Young Chef of the Year competition, I now hope to enter more industry competitions this year and in the future. Progression wise, I hope to be a successful candidate for an Apprenticeship position as a Chef De Partie or as Hospitality Supervisor.

If I got the chance, I would love to study a degree in either Food Science and Nutrition or Hospitality Management. But who knows? “Dream Big, Dare to Succeed” has been my motto that I’ve lived by for a couple of years now.

Published: Monday 28 Sep 2020