Eat & Drink

Hunter Chef on his way to London to cook with the finest

At the recent Hunter Culinary Association awards night, three aspiring young local chefs cooked their hearts out with the carrot being an all-expenses paid trip to London to work with one of the industry’s leading chefs.

Taking out the award was 20-year-old newly qualified young Chef Jayden Dann of EXP. Restaurant that stole the show and the $10K cash prize and was awarded the Hunter TAFE Foundation and Hunter Culinary Association’s most sought-after prize, the Brett Graham Scholarship.

exp restaurant hunter valley nsw

The Hunter Culinary Association, in conjunction with TAFE NSW, host this prestigious annual event, now in its 18th year, which aims to recognise and nurture one of the Hunter Region’s most talented young chefs. Six preliminary finalists cooked for their chance to work under former Novocastrian, and Australian chef Brett Graham in his highly acclaimed London based restaurant – The Ledbury.

The 3 remaining finalists fought it out in an energy-filled cook off, all vying for the $10,000 career kick start. The $10K prize pool sponsored by both the Hunter Culinary Association and TAFE NSW will assist in covering airfares and accommodation in London.

According to the judges, second and third place was even harder to split when young apprentices, Ian Tintero of The George Tavern in East Maitland, Jahri Etteridge from Yellowtail in Terrigal, also represented the greater region and each took home prizes and cash to help establish their careers.

Chatting after the announcement last night with winner Jayden Dann, we realised that it won’t be the last we see of him. With an untapped energy in the kitchen, incredible talent on the plate, and a thirst for the opportunity that awaits him, this scholarship is bound to be the beginning of the next step in this twenty-year-old’s career, who was runner-up last year for the sought-after prize.

Previous winners of the Brett Graham Scholarship have included Troy Rhoades Brown of Muse, Garreth Robbs of Bistro Molines, Chris Thornton of Restaurant Mason, George Mirosevich of the Signal Box, and Josh Gregory of Muse Kitchen, amongst others.

Chief Judge Andy Wright, co-founder of the Hunter Culinary Association, now co-proprietor of Pokolbin Catering Co, was accompanied by Tracey Amos from TAFE, Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Publisher, Cornelia Schultz and leading local Chef Shayne Mansfield of The Flotilla fame on the Judging panel. All four commented on the incredible talent displayed by this years’ competing young Apprentices.

Gus Maher, Chair of Hunter Culinary Association noted “We are so proud of what we achieve here with our partner TAFE NSW. Time and again Brett Graham Scholars have repaid our investment handsomely, returning to The Hunter, with many now our emerging industry leaders”

The Hunter Culinary Association is a not-for-profit organisation, led by industry professionals, offering a suite of scholarships and awards that support aspiring young chefs, apprentices and front of house professionals.

As a region, the Hunter offers a culinary destination featuring diverse and abundant dining experiences ranging from quality cafes to hatted restaurants, which proudly showcase passionate and talented industry professionals, regionally sourced produce and award-winning wines from the Hunter Valley’s highly regarded wineries.