Wollongong chef Jeremy Lackenby, 23, is celebrating winning a gold medal at state level and being named a national grand finalist for the 2021 Nestlé Golden Chef's Hat Award.
The Ruby's Mount Kembla chef is also a finalist in the WorldSkills national championships this month and is no stranger to success in culinary competitions.
It is the second time he has competed in the Nestlé Golden Chef's Hat Awards, which is Australia's longest running culinary competition, but this is the first time he will represent NSW as a national finalist.
His first taste of competition was in the WorldSkills regional finals in 2019 when he won a gold medal.
"I wanted to enter as many competition as I could," he said.
"I love working in fine dining and expressing myself on a plate. Competing in major culinary comps has boosted my confidence and overall drive to produce dishes to the very best of my ability."
Mr Lackenby said he was very proud of his 'Chicken 3 Ways' dish in the virtual Nestlé Golden Chef's Hat competition.
It was poached chicken with panang infused peanut boudin blanc, braised leg, crispy skin, kohlrabi, broccolini, and chick jus gras. He had to provide videos, photos and written recipe submissions while competing against a strong field of chefs from Greater Sydney.
The grand final is being held on November 17 when one chef from Australia and New Zealand will win the 2021 Golden Chef of the Year Awardand $10,000.
"I will be the only on there in person. All the chefs from other states won't be able to travel and will compete via web-cam."
Mr Lackenby said Ruby's has used the present lockdown to do renovations and will reopen with a summer menu on Friday, October 15.
With two competitions coming up he said he is preparing for a very busy month ahead. But he said his boss and mentor Scott Woods has prepared him well .
Mr Lackenby has worked at Ruby's since March 2019 when he was midway through his second year as an apprentice.
Born in Wollongong his interest in the hospitality industry started at 14 when he would help his mum at her Thai restaurant.
"When I finished school I decided I wanted to get into the kitchen," he said.
"I started by doing a year at Woonona/Bulli RSL. When I decided I wanted to get into fine dining there were a few people who knew Scott and contacted him. He took me on board. I had only worked at Ruby's four months when I entered the WorldSkills competition. And I won gold."