Jomel Bartolome has been representing Oamaru on the national stage.
Last month, the Northstar Restaurant and Bar head chef travelled to Auckland for the Lee Kum Kee NZ Developing Chefs Challenge. Mr Bartolome competed alongside three other finalists at the competition, which was originally meant to take place last year, until Covid-19 restrictions scuttled plans for August and then October.
Lee Kum Kee is a Hong Kong-based food company that makes a range of Asian sauces and all dishes created for the national challenge needed to include the company’s products. It was Mr Bartolome’s second time as a finalist at the competition, which is open to all chefs under the age of 40 who either work or train as a chef in New Zealand.
At the event, held at Auckland’s Main Course, contestants had 90 minutes to make and present their dish to a judging panel.
The judges included Ghost Street head chef Khai Yee KK Khor, former Sanford NZ and The Oyster Inn head chef Paulie Hooton and NZ Chefs Association secretary and seasoned chef Mark Dronjak.
Mr Bartolome served up a chicken dish, with a teriyaki vinaigrette and cold noodle salad.
While he did not win the competition — Palmerston North chef Jacob Aomarere-Poole took the top prize — Mr Bartolome said it was a great experience and he was grateful for the support of the Oamaru Licensing Trust.
Mr Bartolome is originally from the Philippines, and moved to New Zealand in 2018. He worked in Queenstown before moving to Oamaru three years ago, where his family joined him. They are in the process of applying for residency, through the one-off 2021 resident visa pathway.
Mr Bartolome’s background is in French cooking, but these days he mostly focuses on Western fusion dishes, and enjoys incorporating his style into Northstar’s menu.
‘‘If you see something Asian-sounding in the dish — that’s me,’’ he said.
‘‘And I try to make everything fresh here now, the burger buns and everything like that from scratch.’’
Mr Bartolome is also an award-winning photographer, and was interested in organising an exhibition of his work in Oamaru.
To see his photography work, visit jomelbartolome.com.