Thomas Reeves, 22, demi chef de partie at Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria, emerged victorious in the final of Essential Cuisine’s 2017 North West Young Chef Competition.
Reeves saw off five other competitors, including 2016 winner Daniela Tucci from the Art School restaurant in Liverpool, who came second this time around, during a two-and-a-half-hour live cook off at the Manchester College.
He was also competing against Cyril Gabriel from Carden Park hotel in Cheshire, Ryan Lee from Rothay Manor hotel in Ambleside, Kieran Gill also from the Art School in Liverpool, and Mai Trising, from the Black Swan in Cumbria.
Judges included British Culinary Federation chairman Matt Davies, ex-Le Gavroche head chef Steven Doherty, chef Mary-Ellen McTague, and Master Chef of Great Britain Brian Mellor, who praised Thomas for his focus, consistency and marriage of modern and traditional techniques.
Essential Cuisine’s North West Young Chef Competition calls on chefs aged 23 or under to produce a restaurant-quality, three-course meal for two with an emphasis on local and seasonal produce. This year the competition underwent a format change, comprising two semi-finals, held at Warrington Collegiate and Kendal College.
With ‘local’ and ‘seasonal’ the key watchwords of the competition, Reeves’s winning three-course menu consisted of an asparagus, poached egg and hollandaise starter; a main of lamb short saddle, baby artichokes, black garlic and potato; and a strawberries, buttermilk, apple marigold and hazelnut dessert.
He will receive £500 and automatic qualification into the semi-finals of the Craft Guild of Chefs’ Young National Chef of the Year competition.
Reeves said: “It’s unbelievable and so exciting. When I entered, I knew I had a chance of getting to the final but never thought I’d win. I just tried to focus on my cooking and keep my head down rather than look at what the other finalists were doing.”
“Last year I saw the Young National Chef of the Year finalists at the Restaurant Show and wanted to get into it. With this competition offering a guaranteed seeded entry, it was perfect for me. I’ll try my best to go and win it for the North West.”
Chairman of judges Brian Mellor said: “Yet again we’ve seen the standard of competition raised to new levels – which makes Thomas’s achievement even more remarkable. He was methodical, consistent and an absolute pleasure to watch – attributes that would have been drilled into him at a quality establishment like L’Enclume.”
Essential Cuisine business development chef and judge Jonathan Harvey-Barnes added: “Congratulations to Thomas, and the entire field of young chefs who cooked with a composure and assuredness beyond their years of experience.”
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