Six chefs have made it to the finals of the Roux Scholarship 2017, after competing in two regional finals in London and Birmingham yesterday.
The six finalists are:
- Martin Carabott, Luca restaurant, Clerkenwell, London
- Michael Cruickshank, Bohemia, St Helier, Jersey
- Scott Dineen, BaxterStorey, London
- Oliver Downey, Fera at Claridge’s, Mayfair, London
- Luke Selby, Dabbous, London
- Matthew Whitfield, the Driftwood hotel, Portscatho, Cornwall
It is the fourth time Dineen has made the final, with Carabott through for the second time in a row. Michael Cruickshank was also a regional finalist last year. Whitfield made it to the regional finals in 2011 and 2012, having worked at the Montagu Arms for Matthew Tomkinson, Roux scholar in 2005. Meanwhile, Downey works for 2008 Roux scholar Dan Cox at Simon Rogan’s Fera at Claridge’s.
The two regional finals were held at the University of West London and University College Birmingham.
The judges in London were Alain Roux, Andrew Fairlie, James Martin and Simon Hulstone. In Birmingham they were Michel Roux Jr, Brian Turner, Sat Bains and André Garrett.
This year the challenge was to create a recipe to serve four people using a whole fresh rainbow trout and 800g live mussels, accompanied by a sauce and two garnishes, one to include jasmine rice. Contestants had two and a half hours to cook their dish, along with a dessert from a list of mystery ingredients given to them on the day.
Michel Roux Jr, who chairs the judging alongside his cousin Alain, said: “It was a great cook off today which bodes well for the final where knowledge of the classics will come into play.”
Alain Roux added: “I could tell which chefs had practiced, it showed in the way they prepared the trout. A few lacked the skill to fillet and portion correctly without waste and the result was that some of the fish we tasted was unevenly cooked. The best got it spot on – moist and slightly pink, just what we were looking for!
“The chefs used a wide variety of different ingredients and techniques, some were a bit too complex and although the dishes looked pretty they didn’t deliver on taste. More is not always good! The complexity of the main dish caused problems for some, leaving a lack of time to focus on their pudding.
“When comparing notes with my cousin we had to make some difficult choices but we’ve got six strong chefs in the final which will make for an exciting competition.”
Sat Bains said: “It’s a great privilege to judge and see the stringent process from paper judging through to the final. My recommendation for chefs coming back next year is to please practice, practice, practice and taste, taste, taste!”
André Garrett said: “I’m interested to see who wins and what they do with this amazing opportunity. I would have liked to taste more flavour in the rice dishes today and in general more seasoning. Did they taste it?”
Andrew Fairlie added: “Overall the standard was good. The chefs going through showed imaginative use of the trout and rice combination. The delicate texture of the rainbow trout caught out some of the other competitors.”
Simon Hulstone added: “Once more the desserts seemed to come second best to the savoury courses. I can’t reiterate enough that a good dessert can carry you through to the final.”
The national final will take place at Westminster Kingsway College, London, on Monday 10 April 2017, when the finalists being given the recipe and ingredients for a main course dish 30 minutes before the start of the competition. They will then have three hours to prepare and present it to the judges.
Three-Michelin-starred French chef Anne-Sophie Pic will head the panel of judges as honorary president alongside joint chairmen Alain Roux and Michel Roux Jr. They will be joined by James Martin, David Nicholls, Brian Turner and head scholar Andrew Fairlie, as well as previous winners Simon Hulstone (2003 scholar), Sat Bains (1999 scholar) and André Garrett (2002 scholar).
The 2017 Roux Scholar will be announced at a prestigious award ceremony at the Langham, London, that same evening.
Comments from the finalists:
Martin Carabott: “Today was amazing. I’m very happy and will give it my best for the big day.”
Michael Cruickshank: “I’m surprised and excited for the final.”
Scott Dineen: “It feels amazing! It’s such an honour to get through to the final again. It’s a dream come true. I’m going to strip back to basics this year to prepare for the final – practice sauces, pastry, the basics. This year I want it more than ever. This year I want to be remembered not for entering four times but for winning!”
Oliver Downey: “It feels great that all the hard work and effort paid off.”
Luke Selby: “It was harder than I thought it would be but I was happy with what I did and it feels great to get to the final.”
Matthew Whitfield: “I entered in 2011 and 2012 and didn’t get through and then went and worked away for a while. I decided to have another go this year because due to my age this is my last chance. I’m very happy to get through and hope to try and enjoy the final.”
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