Canberra Southern Cross Club chef’s claim culinary competition

A dynamic Canberra Southern Cross Club cooking duo has won the right to represent the ACT in the Nestle Golden Chef’s Hat Award.

Brad Howden and Nathan Barker, both chefs at Tuggeranong’s Valley Grill, will represent the ACT at the national cook-off in Melbourne in September.

The pair beat some of the ACT’s best chefs in a pressure-filled, three hour cook-off to create a delectable two course menu of ‘Textures of Pork’ and ‘Deconstructed S’mores’.

The main course pork featured a pan-seared pork fillet, pork croquette and pork fairy floss, while dessert consisted of biscuit, saffron marshmallows, oat streusel and roasted banana puree.

Howden said the pair wanted to challenge themselves so they created a difficult menu that demonstrated their ability to cook with challenging proteins and different techniques.

“I loved the adrenalin rush, loved testing myself and proving to myself that I can overcome anything in the kitchen,” he said.

They were allowed to practice their dishes in the lead-up, but on competition day everything had to be prepared and cooked from scratch.

“Nothing is pre-prepared,” Howden said. “It really puts you under pressure and you have to be in the right headspace to overcome that pressure.”

Competitors weren’t only judged on how their food tasted but on how it was presented, their preparation and workstation setup and how they communicated with their teammate.

Club Executive Chef Anurag Gautam said the pair’s achievement was all the more outstanding as they prepared for the competition while launching a popular new menu at Tuggeranong’s Valley Grill.

“I have been away on leave for more than two months so for Brad and Nathan to launch the new menu with the team and to win the competition as well defies the odds,” he said.

Brad, a sous chef, and Nathan, a general chef, started at the Canberra Southern Cross Club in school-based apprenticeship roles when they were in Year 11.

Anurag, twice a Michelin Star recipient in Europe, has mentored the highly talented duo ever since they commenced and said their skills and work ethic were second-to-none.

“They deserve all the credit for this award,” he said. “I can only show them the way, they have done the hard work”.

“Nathan is an excellent pastry chef and one of Brad’s biggest skills is his ability to encourage the team, not only in the kitchen but in front of house too.”

Brad and Nathan will now compete in the national cook-off against teams from around Australia in a bid to win a $15,000 North American culinary experience.

Those wanting to taste the award-winning chefs’ dishes can do so at the Valley Grill, with the new menu receiving great reviews. With a focus on fresh, local and Australian produce the menu features old time classics plus contemporary fresh flavours like 48-hour braised Wagyu beef cheek and Humpty Doo fillet of Barramundi.

“Our lamb is sourced from the Riverina, our prawns are from North Queensland, our steak is from Australia’s most pristine farming regions. We support local farmers with vegetables and a local baker provides us our bread fresh every morning,” Anurag said.

Club Chief Executive Ian Mackay said he was delighted members and guests could experience the food from the award winning chefs at the Canberra Southern Cross Club.

“Diners at the Valley Grill can treat themselves to some fabulous meals that Anurag, Brad, Nathan and the team create every night of the week.”

“A recent TripAdvisor review described the Valley Grill as ‘the best bistro food in Canberra’, and we think that’s a spot on assessment.”


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For more information please contact:

Ian Mackay

Chief Executive Officer

Canberra Southern Cross Club

t: 0411 248 610