CAREFUL preparation and quality produce have proven to be the recipe for success for young Mildura cook Ben Treloar.

The first-year apprentice chef from Stefano’s Restaurant served the winning dish at SuniTAFE’s Chefs of the Future Cooking Competition last week, which saw eight of the region’s best apprentices battle it out in a MasterChef-like competition at the Sunraysia Farmers Market.

The contestants were given 20 minutes to shop at the market, and one hour to cook a dish featuring lamb and produce sourced from the market.

Ben’s winning dish featured lamb cooked two ways, served with rhubarb compote, sautéed silverbeet, cauliflower purée and a red wine butter sauce.

“I had a rough idea of what I was going to cook going in, but the time factor did make me a bit nervous, there was a lot of elements to get done and time flies when you’re under pressure,” Ben said.

“Working at Stefano’s has taught me how to use my time wisely and use ingredients simply but effectively.

“We are really lucky to have the farmers market where we have access to all of this amazing produce, my family are farmers and I think you can appreciate the food more when you know how much work goes into growing it.”

Ben’s love of cooking has been a long-time passion. The 16-year-old started making his own cakes at age four, and hasn’t been able to stay out of the kitchen since.

“I love taking simple ingredients and turning them into something new,” Ben said.

With dreams to hone his craft and explore the culinary scene overseas, Ben said his training at Stefano’s Restaurant has given him the best start he could hope for.

“It’s pretty surreal to work with Stefano and the team, the restaurant has such a great reputation, I feel really lucky to be given such a great opportunity,” he said.

“The biggest thing I’ve learnt is that the best dishes are the simplest, not to over-complicate flavours and that less is best.”

Brayden Asimos, first-year apprentice at Chaffey’s Restaurant, and Stephanie Puglisi, a second-year apprentice from Swan Hill’s Spoons Riverside, also took home prizes at the competition for gaining places in the top three of the competition.