One of the region’s brightest up-and-coming young chefs will represent the State in national culinary awards in Melbourne in September. Margaret River’s South Regional TAFE student Ben Connell has just returned from the WA Australian Culinary Federation competition held at Joondalup where he picked up a silver award as part of five young South West chefs cooking up a storm. Connell told the Times he’d been working in kitchens for more than four years, with the past two spent working full time at Chow’s Table in Margaret River. Growing up and now studying in the region definitely gave young chefs an advantage, he said. “We’ve had a fair few of the local chefs come in and teach us their dishes and how they cook,” he said. Students also undertook tours of primary producers as far as Pemberton to learn how to source quality ingredients and better understand where their food came from and how it was prepared for market. “I don’t think you get to do that in many other places,” he said. Next month’s competition would pit Connell and his colleagues against the best student chefs in the country. Working with Asian cuisine, Connell said he would bring a South-East Asian flavour to the competition. “It’s very similar to the one in Perth where there’s two entrees, two of the same dish and both need to be vegetarian, the main has to include a rack of pork, and then two desserts,” he said. Connell was still plotting his finisher and how to wow the judges, with the dishes graded on taste as well as how they looked on the plate. TAFE acting managing director Kathy Keay congratulated Connell and the other students. “We are thrilled with the results our cookery students have achieved in these competitions,” she said. “Thanks to the support of their lecturers, these students become skilled workers in the community and wonderful role models for other regional students.” Now in his final year of study, Connell said he aimed to stay working in the region for at least another year before taking his skills on the road, deepening his knowledge with more time spent in South-East Asia. Connell also said he was grateful to his lecturers Kelly Dickinson, Chelsea Martin and Amanda Smith for their expert guidance.