Introducing the 2019 Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship Champion

December 03 2019

After getting his start in food at the age of 15, Chef Camilo Lapointe-Nascimento went from cutting potatoes in a shack to studying cooking at the Institute de Tourisme et D’Hôtellerie du Quebec. Before graduating, Chef Camilo chose Le Mousso for his final stage where he spent 16-hour days getting hands-on experience. After a year away from Le Mousso, Chef Camilo returned for good where he worked alongside chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard, Massimo Piedimonte and Francis Blasis.

While working at Le Mousso, Chef Camilo was encouraged by the team to compete in the 7th annual Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship, where he took home the title.

Now prized with a $10,000 award, new cookware, kitchen accessories and an exclusive opportunity to stage at a global restaurant, we sat down with Chef Camilo to learn more about his day in the life of a Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship competitor, plus where he’s headed next!

You’ve officially been crowned the 2019 Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship Champion! How does it feel?

To be honest, it's unbelievable but feels great! I worked really hard practicing for the competition. Then, it felt like a lot of things went wrong during the finals, so I was feeling bummed out during the ceremony until they announced my name. I was so surprised because I didn’t expect to win at all.

Describe your favourite dish that you created during the competition, and why. 

I would say the dessert. I created a Lemon, Passionfruit and Pear Tarte with Chocolate Ganache. Everything worked out perfectly and I was able to show off my aesthetic on the plate.

What were the top pantry staples that you relied on the most during the final competition?

During practice, I looked at the pantry and there were a couple of ingredients I knew I was going to use. For example, you have to have a starch in your main course. The Yukon gold potato was a main ingredient that I had worked with for a long time so I chose to have a potato starch.

Next were the sliced almonds because I wouldn't have been able to make such a nice tart shell without almond butter. If the potatoes and almonds hadn't been in final competition pantry, my strategy of using long-time used ingredients wouldn't have worked out and the competition would have been more difficult for me.

Share with us which parts of the competition you found you thrived in, and which you found to be the most challenging.

The thing I'm really good at in general is working with proteins. So, during the final, there was nothing going on in my section for a long while. There were no pots cooking away on the stove yet. It was just me, my knife and the fish because I wanted to make sure that the protein was going to be perfectly butchered, deboned and then cooked. Working with protein, can take a long time to achieve perfection, so I really wanted to put an emphasis on the fact that I know how to cook and debone a fish. That would be what I thrived in. 

I found timing to be the most challenging during this competition. You’re always trying to think ahead but, in the moment, this can be very overwhelming so I would definitely like to work on this for future competitions.

If you could go back and do it all over again, what would be the one thing that you would change?

I would have brought my own pan. I had this plan for a scored potato garnish that I was very proud of because it takes a long time to get it just right. It's all about the knife skills. For that, I needed a non-stick pan and, in the moment, you're not thinking about looking at the pan given to you to make sure it's the right one. I just saw that it was non-stick, so I put it on the stove and started cooking. Then, once it was time to flip the garnish, the bottom was stuck.

All of those perfect scores stayed on the bottom of the pan and the whole potato had stayed white. Just one of the many things that had gone bad that day that had me thinking, "this is not my year, I'll try again next year."

What is one piece of advice you would give a chef looking to compete in this competition?

You already practice cooking for a competition, doing so over and over. One thing that is often forgotten because we're so into your way of practicing is the level of stress you have to deal with during the actual competition. 

Right before the final, I called Le Mousso’s Executive Chef, Massimo Piedimonte like, "hey Chef, I'm about to go in." He says, "okay, but there's one last thing I need to tell you. If something goes wrong and you feel the pressure is too much, you need to step outside and breathe for a second. Stop everything you're doing, step outside, re-centre yourself and come back in stronger."

I did that, I had to do that, and it was the best advice I'd been given going into competition. 

Now that you’ve won, where do you think you want to complete your stage?

I've been going back and forth about my ideas of where to go. There has been talk about maybe doing my stage at French Laundry or Eleven Madison Park, some of the bigger establishments in the United States that are hard to get into.