AT 15, Zackary Furst took off to Melbourne to pursue a career in the city’s best restaurants.
The former Wodonga boy was already well versed in the game — he began trying his hand in the kitchen at just eight.
That was helped by the fact his parents, Ted and Jacinta, ran a catering company.
This week, for the second year running, he has taken out the Victorian title in the national 2014 Nestle Golden Chef’s Hat Award.
He and his Melbourne work mate Jake Kellie will now represent Victoria in the national titles in Melbourne in September.
The pair work at Fitzroy restaurant The Commoner — Mr Furst as sous chef, with Mr Kellie the head chef.
Mr Furst, 21, said having such a confident chef as Mr Kellie, 23, beside him gave them a big advantage in Tuesday’s competition, which had a field of 35 chefs.
Many of those were from Melbourne’s best eateries, such as Vue de Monde.
“Having won last year has probably given me a bit more experience and knowledge,” he said.
The competition required them to make a three-course meal for four people in three hours.
A whole quail had to be used for entree and a lamb shoulder for the main course, while the dessert was entirely up to them.
Mr Furst said he felt strongly that their general technique and knowledge of the ingredients impressed the judges.
“We braised our lamb shoulder because it’s a secondary cut and it takes a long time to break down — we took a pressure cooker in to make it easier and more tender,” he said.
“We wanted to treat the quail as it is because it’s a beautiful little bird and the best way to do it generally is to pan roast it and finish it with butter just above medium rare.”
For dessert they created a bay leaf panna cotta with chocolate and fennel seed ganache, sweet baked tuile and dates in rosemary caramel.
Mr Furst worked briefly as a kitchen hand at the New Albury Hotel at 15 and soon after moved to Melbourne.