Head pastry chef at Urbane, Brisbane, alanna Sapwell is among an elite group of young chefs, waiters and restaurateurs to be selected for the electrolux appetite for excellence awards program.
Judged by some of australia’s most successful chefs, restaurateurs and industry leaders – including Christine Manfield and Craig hemmings – the awards recognise the next generation of hospitality leaders.
Of the 11 national finalists in the Young Chef State Finalists, alanna was the only pastry chef selected. While she wasn’t selected as a national finalist, alanna said the experience was challenging and rewarding.
It was quite daunting going into the competition with my strong point being pastry. But I have run all sections of the kitchen in my 11 years in the industry and I believe in the importance of a kitchen with a unified team,” she said.
“this means that while some people have a natural flare for pastry, everyone should know all sections so they can help each other and have a mutual respect for one another.”
alanna commenced her apprenticeship at River house in 2004 and had worked her way up to chef de partie by 2008. her impressive professional portfolio includes time in Italy, where she worked at La decima Musa as sous chef, as well as head chef at Morino Lodge in Japan. In 2010 alanna took a position with Maison de Provence as head chef and since 2012, has worked as head pastry chef at the establishment, which has four restaurants running out of the same kitchen.
although alanna has wanted to enter the awards for several years, she ensured her training and experience was up to scratch before putting her name forward.
“I have travelled overseas and I have obtained a really solid understanding of the basics. It’s only when you have this base you can embrace the molecular side of things and the fine dining aspects of being a chef,” alanna said.
as part of the competition, alanna was required to explain her own food philosophy and to use this school-of-thought to prepare a four-course menu. a firm believer that “one good meal can change it all”, alanna looked to her childhood for inspiration.
“I remember when I was nine and I tasted my first traditionally-made pizza, instantly coming to the realisation that in this convenience driven world we take short-cuts and what we’re often left with is a poor excuse of a replica from the traditional form. Why must we settle?”
“When creating menus, I often ask my friends what their favourite dish is. It’s never a pretentious dish that costs an exorbitant amount of money. It’s often as simple as mum’s chocolate pudding.”
as part of her four-course meal, which had to be made within an hour-and-a-half, alanna created her version of a mandarin meringue pie; a fiery meringue filled with mandarin curd on a crumbly shortbread base with chocolate twigs.
For other pastry chefs, alanna encourages involvement in the electrolux Young Chef of the Year awards program.
“It’s a stunning opportunity to see how your food and skills compare on a national scale, and being able to share ideas with other professionals was priceless,” she said.
“there was a strong feeling of camaraderie between the contestants, which is a reflection of how the program is structured and run.”