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St George’s Hospital apprentice chef receives national accolade

In a first for the hospital sector, a young chef has made her mark in New Zealand's hospitality industry.

Posted by on 26 October 2013

St George’s Hospital employee Laura Marks was plucked from more than 100 eligible modern chef apprentices to be one of eight finalists competing in the recent Service IQ Modern Apprentice Chef of the Year competition, held in Auckland.

Laura is the first contestant from a hospital background in the history of the competition, which is traditionally represented by apprentice chefs from five star hotels, restaurants or cafes.  The annual event is organised by ServiceIQ, judged by representatives from the New Zealand Chefs Association and watched by hundreds of industry professionals.

“When I found out I had been selected I was overwhelmed with excitement and then reality set in, along with hard work to make sure I was prepared. In the end it all jelled together and it was an absolutely amazing experience,” says Laura, who came away with a silver medal.

The eight finalists had to create recipes for a two-course menu based on a list of ingredients given to them in advance, with a time limit of two hours for each dish. The focus of the main course was a whole salmon to scale, fillet and prepare to their own recipe.

“I cooked a celeriac and roast capsicum risotto cake with a balsamic-glazed salmon accompanied by a white wine buerre blanc,” says Laura. “My dessert was a minted panna cotta with rhubarb and pear compote.”

Laura started at St George’s Hospital in 2007 when she was just 15, working as a casual kitchen hand after school. She is now into the second year of her full-time apprenticeship under executive chef Hans Schuhmacher, who encouraged Laura to enter.

“I’ve had the opportunity to participate in many competitions around Europe, North America and New Zealand and while it is great exposure it also builds confidence and shows you where you stand in the industry,” says Hans.

“Laura’s success highlights the calibre of our apprentice chefs at St George’s Hospital, and that they are capable of measuring themselves against the best in the country. But equally important it helps us to break down the stigma of hospital food and to lift our reputation even further in this respect.”

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