Winner: Zack Furst, Ides
Maybe Zack Furst chose cooking. Maybe cooking chose him. Let’s face it: professional cheffing might be the only possible fate for a kid who started helping out with his parents’ catering company in regional Victoria when he hit double digits, talked Michael Ryan into taking him on in the Provenance kitchen as an after-school job at age 15, and the following year moved to Melbourne to take up an apprenticeship at the French Brasserie under Gabriel Martin. His career might have been a fait accompli but Furst, now 25, has approached it with surgical precision. He’s made every move count, working with Nic Poelaert at Embrasse and Brooks, then Ben Shewry at Attica. Peter Gunn’s sous chef since the opening of Ides, he’s been on the “one to watch” list for a while now thanks to a mix of talent, hard graft and an eye for pop-up events putting the old generation on notice. His cooking swings thoroughly modern – “I like things to taste how they are meant to taste. My cooking is very practical
and stripped back, and I like to eat things that taste delicious rather than look pretty” – but Furst isn’t taking the modern young chef’s approach of grabbing the first head chef gig that comes along. “I could take a head chef position now, but it can stunt your development in a way. I consider myself a leader in the kitchen, but I want to stagger my growth. Give me three to five year, and I’ll be looking for that head chef role. This is my life’s career, and I don’t want to mess it up.