The UK has qualified for the final of the Bocuse d’Or after a dramatic European qualifying heat in Italy.
The team, led by Tom Phillips, sous chef at Restaurant Story, had to overcome problems with their stove to turn out two elaborate courses for an international jury at the Lingotto Fiere arena in Turin.
In a nail-biting climax, the UK took the final European spot after securing 10th place.
Norway took gold, followed by Sweden and Denmark. Hosts Italy were awarded a wild card for the final.
Phillips, 26, the UK’s youngest ever representative, revealed he had to call engineers to look at his oven, as the chef and commis Nathan Lane re-thought their battle plan.
Phillips said: “You prepare for everything in a cookery competition, but you don’t practice for your oven failing.”
The Welshman said it had been an “amazing experience” to represent the UK in the world’s premier culinary challenge.
Phillips said: “I am elated. But this is where the work really starts for Lyon.
“The Bocuse d’Or is like nothing else. The hardest service at a restaurant is nothing like this. In a kitchen, you have flicks of super intensity for maybe 15 minutes, but not five and a half hours of pure running.”
Phillips was assisted by Lane, 20, a University College Birmingham graduate, and coach Adam Bennett, chef director of the Cross, Kenilworth, and a former UK candidate.
Bennett said: “I am so proud of what the team achieved. On the big day, they hit top form. You can’t do any better than that. The team gave 100%.
“We qualified under adversity due to technical difficulties outside our control and the team showed great character in the way it responded and rose to the challenge.”
Twenty teams competed for the ten European spots in the final, which takes place on January 29-30 during Lyon’s SIRHA 2019 show.
Staged in southern Europe for the first time, the contest was given added poignancy following the death of founder Paul Bocuse, who launched the event in 1987.
All the candidates had five hours and 35 minutes to complete two exacting challenges using signature regional products. The “theme on a plate” required chefs to prepare 15 identical plates incorporating Castelmagno, a semi-hard Piedmont mountain cheese, and hens’ eggs. At least 50% of the ingredients had to be “vegetal” and chefs were required to select products from 99 vegetables, fruits, flowers, cereals, legumes and seeds unveiled on the eve of the contest. Chefs also had to use a mystery ingredient: spaghetti.
For the meat platter, teams had to present their dish on a large silver tray prior to it being plated for the judges. They had to use fillet of Fassona Piemontese beef, calf sweetbreads and Baraggia Biellese and Vercellese rice. Candidates were urged to marry the local ingredients with their own country’s heritage and traditions.
UK team president Brian Turner praised the resilience of the team. He said: “The team did everybody proud with the way they put their backs into everything and worked endlessly to prove we have a great reputation for gastronomy.”
The UK menu:
Soft-boiled hen’s egg with garlic filigree, market salad, Albenga asparagus with almond, emulsion of Castelmagno cheese.
Filet de Boeuf Façon Wellington
Fassona Piemontese beef fillet, veal sweetbread, ham and tongue baked in puff pastry crust. Wye Valley asparagus, Old Winchester cheese and Yorkshire wild garlic.
Salt-baked Staffordshire turnip, wild horseradish.
Fried beetroot and Baraggia Biellese and Vercellese rice cake with Scottish pine vinegar.
English pea custard and garden vegetable salad.
Beef jus with truffle.