Workies chefs gear up for Chefs Table mystery box challenge

Excited For Mystery Box: Lithgow and District Workmen's Club chefs Tara Gill and Melanie Quinn. Picture: KIRSTY HORTON.
Excited For Mystery Box: Lithgow and District Workmen's Club chefs Tara Gill and Melanie Quinn. Picture: KIRSTY HORTON.

Welcome to the Chefs Table, a Club NSW competition that brings together club chefs from around the State to showcase their culinary skills. 

For a third year, Lithgow and District Workmen’s Club will be represented by Melanie Quinn. 

A highlight of the 2017 competition for Mel was seeing her dessert, a caramel and white chocolate mousse with a caramel and apple tuile and cream, feature on former Masterchef contestant and Chef’s Table judge Courtney Roulston’s Instagram account. 

“That was very memorable,” Mel said. 

This year Mel will be joined at the competition by Tara Gill, who started her training at the Workies in 2015 and is now a qualified chef. 

Tara is an “all-rounder” when it comes to food and looks forward to her first Chef’s Table competition. 

“I have no idea what it will be like so I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.  

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Head chef Tim Standing said the club liked to send its up-and-coming chefs to the competition for the experience it provided. 

This year's format will be a new challenge for competitors, inexperienced and old hands alike. Gone is the preparation of a three-course menu based on cost per head.

Instead, welcome to the mystery box challenge. Each team will have to prepare three courses based on the ingredients provided to them. 

Mel said the mystery box element was an “exciting part” of this year’s competition. 

“In a way there is a lot less pressure when it is done this way, you just get in there and do what you need to,” she said. 

The mystery box challenge aimed to move the challenge back away from fancy equipment and techniques. 

“They want simple club food. It should be easy for us,” Tara said. 

“They are looking for simple dishes that look modern.”

The competition, run by ClubsNSW, will be held in early July, with the winners to be announced later in the month at a gala awards night. 

Mel was looking forward to the challenge and the social side of the competition. 

“Last year, just the whole experience of watching all the other chefs was exciting and it was fun, too. You tend to stress out beforehand, but then by the end of it, you really enjoy it.”

The team will have three hours to prepare for the meal before the entree has to be served, then an hour between each course. 

The chefs have had a practice day and a few impromptu challenges set by their head chef to help them prepare.