Eleven-year-old Gabriella Shalekoff, from Linksfield in Johannesburg, is the current Taste Bud Battle Junior Chef of the Year and is looking forward to crowning her successor when the 2020 competition’s final cook-off takes place later this year.
Recalling her participation in last year’s contest, Shalekoff says: “The whole experience was amazing and I had such fun.”
The youngster, who wowed the judges in the finale with her chicken gau bao buns (see recipe below), adds: “I would definitely recommend that children enter and the best advice I can give is to try your best and just enjoy yourself.”

Shalekoff says that she still cooks and bakes every chance she gets: “I love experimenting with new flavours and recipes. I want to carry on baking and maybe one day become a pastry chef. It makes me happy when I see everyone eating my food.”

Adds her mother Lucy: “Cooking is a skill that every child should learn as it gives them confidence, teaches them about food choices and prepares them for later in life.
“Not every child is sporty or academic, and cooking is another avenue for kids to express their artistic and unique talent.”
Taste Bud Battle, South Africa’s best food competition for youngsters is once again on the search for the country’s best young chefs, with prizes of R50 000 to be won and the chance to be crowned the Taste Bud Battle Chef of the Year 2020.   
There are four age categories in this year’s competition: pre-primary (four- and five-year olds); junior primary (aged six to nine); primary (10 to 13) and high-school (14 to 19). Entries close May 31. Taste Bud Battle’s theme for 2020 is Fruity Fun.

Contestants can enter by going to the Taste Bud Battle website www.tastebudbattle.co.za.
Semi-finalists will be announced on June 11, with regional cook-offs taking place on July 11 (Johannesburg); July 18 (Pretoria); July 25 (Durban); August 1 (Cape Town) and August 15 (George). Finalists will be announced on August 31 and flown up to Johannesburg for the ultimate Taste Bud Battle where category winners will be chosen and the overall grand champion will walk away with fabulous prizes on October 3.
Taste Bud Battle sponsors include Capsicum Culinary Studio, Snowflake, Cresta Shopping Centre and Menlyn Park Shopping Centre with more to be announced soon.
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Fun fact: Some fruits that people mistake as vegetables include pumpkin, butternut, chilli, capsicum, cucumber, tomato, olives, aubergine, sweet corn, avocado and green beans

Gabriella’s Chicken Bao Buns & Fried Chicken

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 30 mins
Serves: 4

• 4 chicken breasts
• 4 bao buns (can get these from a Chinese supermarket)
• 1 cup flour
• 2 eggs
• 1 tsp paprika
• ½ tsp salt
• ½ tsp pepper
• Oil to shallow fry
• Rocket
• Micro shoots

• 2 avocados
• Juice of 1 lemon
• Salt

Red Pepper & Tomato Salsa
• 1 deseeded red pepper
• ½ red onion
• 1 pack baby cherry tomatoes
• 1-2 crushed cloves of garlic
• ¼ tsp paprika
• ½ tsp salt
• Dash of pepper
• 1 tbsp tomato paste

Twice fried chips
• 4 potatoes
• Bowl of water
• Deep fat fryer
• Salt

Plating options
Micro shoots, red onion
Step 1 – Twice fried chips
1. Cut potatoes into chips.
2. Soak in cold water for at least 30 minutes.

Step 2 – Salsa
1. Place ½ red onion, red pepper and garlic in a blender and blitz.
2. Heat a dash of oil in a pan and fry onions and red pepper mixture.
3. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and add to pan.
4. Add a tablespoon of tomato paste and season.
5. Reduce to medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.
6. Once softened return to blender and pulse until a chunky consistency is achieved.

Step 3 – Guacamole
1. Mash your 2 avocados in a bowl.
2. Add salt and lemon juice to taste.

Step 4 – Chips first fry
1. Drain chips.
2. Heat oil to 130°C.
3. Once oil is heated cook the chips for 10 minutes.
4. Remove from fryer, drain and turn fryer up to 190°C.
5. Fry chips again until golden and crispy.
6. Once ready, drain and season with a generous amount of salt.

Step 5 – Chicken
1. Place chicken on a board and gently tenderise using a mallet.
2. Season with salt, pepper and paprika.
3. Fill one bowl with 1 cup flour, 1 tsp paprika, ½ tsp pepper and ½ tsp salt.
4. In another bowl beat 2 eggs.
5. Dip seasoned chicken into the flour and then into the egg and then into the flour again and place on a plate.
6. Heat oil to about 165°C and fry the chicken until crispy but moist inside.
7.Remove and rest on a clean plate.

Step 6 – Mayonnaise
1. Place 250ml oil and 1 egg in a jug.
2. Blend with a hand blender to make magic mayonnaise.
3. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Step 7 – Bao buns
1. Place bao buns in an electric steamer and steam for 10 minutes.

To assemble
1. Place a few leaves of rocket on an open bao bun.
2. Add a spoon of mayo and top with a spoon of salsa.
3. Add some fried chicken with a spoon of guacamole on top.
4. Sprinkle with micro greens and thinly sliced red onion.

Mayo for dipping chips
Place mayo in a bowl and sprinkle with cut spring onions and paprika.ve rest on a clean plate.

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2 Replies to “Taste Bud Battle – Linksfield Lass Vows to Keep on Cooking”

  1. Sone like Reading, some Enjoy Sport, Others love dancing and some Even Cook with a Passion. Every youngster Should find his/her Talent in being Creative. And it’s an excellent opportunity for youngsters to participate in the Taste Bud Battle for Youngsters

    1. You’re so right and traditionally most kids were expected to be academically driven but there are many who not and they shine other areas and that’s what makes us all so special – our unique abilities and talents and as parents, we should nurture these passions

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