Meet the chefs representing NZ at the world’s most prestigious culinary competition

By MiNDFOOD

Left to right: Szren Hamberger, William Mordido and Ken
O’Connell. Credit: Alex McVinnie.
Left to right: Szren Hamberger, William Mordido and Ken O’Connell. Credit: Alex McVinnie.
Considered the Olympics of the culinary world, the Bocuse d’Or has long been considered the globe's most prestigious cooking competition.

But since its inception in 1987, Aotearoa has not yet been represented at the grand final.

That’s changing in January, when New Zealand’s first-ever team to make it to the final round will join 23 other teams from across the globe to showcase their incredible gastronomical skills.

Bocuse d’Or Team New Zealand were selected for the main event after placing in the top five of the Asia Pacific competition with an entry that celebrated unique local ingredients and put Aotearoa culture on show.

Each country’s team comprises one chef and one commis assistant – the two chefs selected as candidate and commis for the current team are William Mordido (BUKO) and Szren Hamberger (Park Hyatt Auckland) respectively.

The team also includes Ken O’Connell (Copia Restaurant) as coach, and John Kelleher (AUT), who will form part of the Tasting Jury over the two-day competition.

The grand final will take place in Lyon, France on 22-23 January 2023.

The teams will have 5.5 hours to complete two tests – one is creating a three-course meal for 15 based on the theme of ‘Feed the Kids’, the other is a platter competition where contestants must create a dish for 15 people showcasing the monkfish.

A dish created by Will Mordido and Szren Hamberger using Silver Fern Farms grass-fed New Zealand beef.

In the leadup to the event, Mordido and Hamberger have had to fit their training in around working three days a week. 

Mordido says this has only been made possible thanks to the support of their sponsors.

Silver Fern Farms, which has long been a strong supporter of the hospitality industry, is a gold sponsor of the team.

“We would not be able to train today if Silver Fern Farms wasn’t on board,” Mordido says.

Szren Hamberger and Will Mordido training for the Bocuse d’Or grand final.

The sponsorship has meant the New Zealand team has a shot against other teams that are more established at the competition.

“We’re competing against countries that have done this for decades,” says Mordido. 

“A lot of them are backed by the government, they’ve got huge sponsorship deals.”

The team are continuing to fundraise ahead of the grand final in February. “We initially set a target for about $100,000 – that’s to cover us to get there and for our training,” Mordido explains. 

They have so far managed to raise around $80,000. “So we’re comfortable, but if we were to raise more, we could be training full-time, and that’s the difference between people who make it to the podium and people who don’t. 

“But I think for us just to represent is huge. New Zealand has never made it to the world stage. We’ve only made it to Asia Pacific, but never beyond.”

To find out more about the team, visit www.bocusedor.org.nz. Kiwis are also able to support the team on their  journey to Lyon by donating via Give a Little

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