While Food24’s Next Gen winner Meanda Mills didn’t have any ‘lightbulb moments’ where she suddenly realised she should be a chef, she’s always been most comfortable in the kitchen – a place where she feels she can truly express herself. ‘I love the joy that you can bring to people with a single meal. It’s a love that you cannot explain to anybody who isn’t in the industry,’ she says. Mills is currently in her third year at the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch where she will graduate with an advanced diploma in culinary arts, patisserie and media communications.
Recently, the student chef stole the show at Food24’s Next Gen awards event with her hot cross cruffins, served with white chocolate sauce and tiramisu eggnog. After winning the Easter section of the competition, her recipe proved its worth when she was named overall winner. We chatted to this up-and-coming talent to get to know her a little better – keep reading for an exclusive recipe created especially by Mills for House and Leisure readers.
How did you decide on the recipe you entered into the Food24 competition?
Well, I am a salt person. I love the freedom that comes with savoury dishes, whereas patisserie is a science of precision. I have a lot of respect and admiration for pastry chefs. Every family has their own unique savoury dishes that they prepare for Easter but one thing is for sure: there will always be a hot cross bun on the table! I am also a big tiramisu fan and I knew they would work well together, while also adding a playful and quirky element to the dish.
What was the most challenging part of the competition?
Being judged! Not only were we judged on our recipe development but also on the styling, photography and overall mood of the image. Knowing that the judges relied on an image and recipe was quite scary!
And the most enjoyable part?
Seeing how people reacted to the recipe, their sharing of it on so many social media platforms and the comments it evoked from the public. It made me feel proud to be part of the industry.
Which restaurants would you most like to work at and why?
My dream job would be to work at La Colombe, Test Kitchen or Chefs Warehouse – just to name a few. I would love to have the opportunity to work with some of our greatest chefs and ‘soak up’ all their valuable knowledge.
Do you have a favourite dish at the moment?
Without a doubt, rosemary-smoked aged rump picanha with roasted baby potatoes and a yoghurt and crème fraîche dressing. The dressing is made from plain yoghurt, crème fraîche, spring onions, sundried tomatoes and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. It is a simple dish but packed with powerful flavours.
What do you predict for food trends in 2018?
The food trend for 2018 will be flavour, flavour, flavour! Everyday people want more flavour and value for money. My prediction is that food will become more convenient and require less cooking time while still being delicious. Each type of cuisine is unique and limitless and I think, in the future, different types of cuisines will become integrated and offer us new and exciting ways of eating.
Butternut and baby spinach pasta with sage beurre noisette and blue cheese
12 fresh sage leaves
650g butternut spirals
Salt and pepper, to season
100g baby spinach
70g blue cheese, crumbled into pieces
Add 80g of butter to a pan. Cook for 7 minutes until the butter reaches a light brown colour – this gives it the taste required to make beurre noisette.
Add the sage leaves to the butter.
Remove the flavoured butter from the heat and set aside.
Place the remaining 20g butter in a large pot and fry the butternut spirals in it for 10-12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the beurre noisette.
Add the baby spinach and toss to combine.
Serve your pasta with crumbled blue cheese over the top.
Tip: the blue cheese can be replaced with crème fraîche.