Finalists for Best New Talent 2018
Photography: Ben Hansen (Danielle Alvarez); Andrew Finlayson (Josh Niland); Julian Kingma (Charlie Carrington)
DANIELLE ALVAREZ, FRED'S, SYDNEY
We have to allow for a certain elasticity to the term "new" when we're talking Best New Talent. On the strength of the four years Danielle Alvarez put in at the kitchen at Chez Panisse, Alice Waters, the grand dame of Californian cuisine called her one of her favourite cooks. But this is Alvarez's first proper gig in Australia, and, as far as the "talent" part of the equation goes, we're on much safer ground. Alvarez is one of those rare naturals whose work seems perfectly unforced, even as it wows diners with flavour, again and again.
In short: The Merivale MVP.
JOSH NILAND, SAINT PETER, SYDNEY
After a tour of some of the best kitchens in Australia and a brief stint working as a hired-gun head chef for a large company, Josh Niland is heading a kitchen that's really his own, and showing that he's got more than potential. At Saint Peter he's pushing the boundaries of what you can do with seafood in Australia, balancing ambition and humility as carefully as he tempers his technical skills with taste. He has an eye for good produce, a fierce dislike of waste, and a passion for his subject that's a joy to behold.
In short: A seafood savant.
CHARLIE CARRINGTON, ATLAS DINING, MELBOURNE
Even if he wasn't so young, Charlie Carrington's balancing act of opening his own restaurant, cooking almost everything over fire, changing cuisines every four months at Atlas Dining (from Vietnamese to Israeli to Korean to date) and doing it really, really well would be impressive. That he's only 23 and seems to have his ego firmly in check is worth all the applause we can throw his way.
In short: A winning rebuttal to the idea that the young folk of today are work-shy.