A STINT in Claridge's kitchen, cooking lunch for a party of celebrities and industry leaders, formed part of the prize for this year's highest-scoring winners of the Académie Culinaire de France's Annual Awards of Excellence (AAE).
The task for Ben Lister, 23, demi chef de partie at the Churchill Inter-Continental Hotel in London, and Mark Youngman, 22, demi chef de partie at the Landmark, also in London, was to prepare a four-course lunch for 18 invited guests at The Restaurant in the capital's Claridge's.
Prior to the event, they met the hotel's chef des cuisines, John Williams, to discuss the menu.
Taking as a starting point the main-course dish to be prepared by the Claridge's brigade, Lister, the top candidate in the AAE's kitchen section, worked on his choice of starter. "The main course [a fillet of new season lamb with a vegetable tartlet scented with mint] was quite light, so I decided we could cope with a bit of bulk at the start of the meal," says Lister, who prepared a terrine of foie gras, celeriac and confit duck. The classically prepared terrine, held together by whipped butter, was accompanied by a mixed-leaf salad and a dressing of 30-year-old balsamic vinegar.
Lister, who studied at the Norfolk College of Arts & Technology, has worked at the Churchill Inter-Continental for four years.
Following the lamb, Williams caused a stir by serving a prune soufflé, judged by the guests to be "perfectly cooked", accompanied by a goats' cheese ice-cream. While the soufflé was a big hit, the ice-cream received mixed comments, several guests preferring to see a more suitable ice-cream, such as vanilla or Armagnac.
Completing the four-course meal was Youngman's piäce de résistance, a concert of desserts. Youngman, who headed the pastry section of the AAE, decided to do an assiette because he believed it was the best means of showing off the skills he has learnt from studying at University College, Suffolk, and Thames Valley University, Slough, and from working at the Dorchester and, until recently, the Churchill Inter-Continental.
His selection of desserts included a pear poached with saffron and cardamom and filled with white chocolate mousse, dark chocolate tart, warm cherry clafouti served with clotted cream, stem ginger parfait, and a lemon sorbet in a tuile basket with spun sugar.
Youngman, supported by Claridge's pastry chef Claire Clark, also served a selection of petits fours on platters which he had decorated with a pastillage masquerade mask in blue and gold.
Wines were selected by Ken Wilkins of sponsor Mumm Champagne. n