Black Box Ingredients
Major culinary challenge celebrates 100 events!

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The internationally renowned MLA Black Box Culinary Challenge has just celebrated a major milestone in its long history. Its most recent Global Final, held at Wrest Point Casino in Hobart, Tasmania on 23 May, marked the 100th time that chefs have come together to participate in this innovative and exciting competition.
Sponsored by Meat & Livestock Australia, the MLA Black Box challenges young chefs to put their skills to the test in a hands-on, outside catering event. In addition to the adrenalin rush of competing, it also offers great opportunities for networking with international chefs and promotes Australian meat and other products to overseas markets.
Now in its 16th year, the MLA Black Box is internationally recognised as a major event on the foodservice calendar, with chefs competing across Australia, the US, Asia and the Middle East.
“It’s a young chefs’ event,” emphasises Tim Kelf, International Market Projects Manager, MLA. “You need to be under 35 years of age to enter – it’s not for senior or sous chefs. Rather it’s a great opportunity for younger chefs to prove themselves in the tough international arena.”
Exemplifying the competition’s commitment to identifying and rewarding young talent, this year’s winners are a team from Thailand Culinary Academy – “in theory they are currently not professionals as they arte studying and yet these young champs were able to not only hold their own against more experienced competitors, but take out the Gold medal,” Tim reports.
In second place was a team from Bulgari Resorts & Hotels in Bali, and third was the Aussie team from Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart.
“It’s a tough event, so making second or third place is a great achievement in itself,” Tim emphasises.
The challenge sees between eight and 16 teams of four chefs each, from restaurants, hotels, catering schools, clubs and airline catering compete using a mystery box of ingredients which showcases Australian beef and lamb and other sponsored products. They are given one hour to plan a menu with the Black Box ingredients, staples and other can-use ingredients.
The following day each team must cook four portions for the judges as well as 20 portions to be served at a gala dinner for 300 people. Dishes are judged on flavour, creativity and serviceability.
The top three winning teams receive Gold, Silver and Bronze medals and cash awards, with additional awards given for Best Courses and Best Table Display.
The challenge is judged by a panel which this year comprised one chef from the Middle East, three from Asia and four internationally recognised Australian chefs, with a long history of expertise in international competition.
“It really is a great event and one which, as the name emphasises, is designed to challenge the competitors,” points out Tim Kelf. “The black box ingredients this year included a selection of Tasmanian produce, which of course is one of the finest regions for produce in Australia.
‘The meat component featured cuts that chefs may be less familiar with, beef brisket and lamb rump. We shy away from the more traditional cuts because this not only challenges the competitors’ creativity but also helps educate young chefs about the potential opportunities for using such cuts in their cuisine.
“At a time when food costs are coming under pressure due to increasing demand from international markets, it’s important for chefs to grow their understanding of how to they can better utilise the full range of cuts available from beef, lamb and so on. This is one way they can combat rising prices — by being more innovative in what they put on the menu.”
For more information on the MLA Black Box Culinary Challenge, including details of upcoming events and how to register for participation, visit