In the hothouse of competition, young Peter O’Neill has come up trumps.
The 20-year-old apprentice chef at Pins on Lurline in Katoomba kept his cool at the recent NSW WorldSkills competition.
Faced with the challenge of providing a two-course meal using specified ingredients, he topped the class, winning the gold medal and qualifying for the national competition in Sydney next June.
Mr O’Neill, who is studying at Wentworth Falls TAFE, said he was “in shock” when his name was called out.
“It was my first competition so I wasn’t sure what to expect,” he said.
He had to create a main course using prosciutto, thyme and tomato, chicken breast and thigh, a sauce and two vegetables.
Dessert had to be a pastry with passionfruit, cream, lemon and a sauce.
“I made a ginger biscuit with passionfruit cream, Italian meringue and a strawberry consomme,” he said, admitting creating desserts was one of his favourite tasks in the kitchen.
Mr O’Neill said his father cooked a lot, which possibly influenced him, and his first part-time job had been in the hospitality industry.
“I just felt comfortable there,” he said.
Head chef at Pins on Lurline, Adam Shaw, said Mr O’Neill was “a good hard worker, very dedicated to his job. He has a lot of passion and enjoys his work.”
Mr O’Neill, who lives in Katoomba and went to school at the Mountains Christian College, is in the second year of his three-year apprenticeship.
He said he was very grateful to his TAFE teacher, Angelique Richardson, and local hospitality guru John Rankin, who joined him for early morning extra sessions where he could hone his skills.
Mr O’Neill will keep practising in preparation for the nationals, with the hope of winning there and qualifying for the world championships in Russia.
The freshly renovated Pins on Lurline, now owned by former Sydneysider Jody Noppert, is open for dinner seven nights from 5.30pm as well as weekend lunches from 11.30am-2pm. It also hosts weddings and other functions.