Alain and Michel Roux Jr have revealed the regional finalists for the 2017 Roux Scholarship competition.
The 18 regional finalists will battle it out at two competitions held simultaneously in University College Birmingham and University of West London, Ealing on Thursday 23 March 2017.
The chefs competing in Birmingham are:
Jack Brough, Fera at Claridge's, Mayfair, London
Scott Dineen, BaxterStorey, (Black Rock), London
Dylan Owens, Fine Dining Company, Tattenhall, Cheshire
Ashley Randall, The George, Yarmouth, Isle of Wight
Peter Turnpenny, Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, Windermere, Cumbria
Matthew Whitfield, The Driftwood Hotel, Portscatho, Cornwall
Judges: Michel Roux Jr, Brian Turner, Sat Bains (1999 scholar), André Garrett (2002 scholar).
The chefs competing in London are:
Martin Carabott, Luca Restaurant, Clarkenwell, London
James Coe, Harbour & Jones (Ashurst), London
Michael Cruickshank, Bohemia, St Helier, Jersey
Oliver Downey, Fera at Claridge's, Mayfair, London
Joseph Fallowfield, Kota, Porthleven, Cornwall
Daniel Lines, Restaurant Associates (Credit Suisse), London
Paul Matthews, Vacherin, (Fieldfisher), London
Alexander Robinson, Restaurant Associates (Credit Suisse), London
David Scarpato, Gemelli, Newport, South Wales
Luke Selby, Dabbous, London
George Tomlin, The Clove Club, London
Fergus Wilford, Cliveden House, Taplow, Berkshire
Judges: Alain Roux, Andrew Fairlie, James Martin, David Nicholls, Simon Hulstone (2003 scholar).
Of the 18 regional finalists, three - Martin Carabott, Scott Dineen and Paul Matthews - all competed in last year's final. Michael Cruickshank and David Scarpato were regional finalists in 2016. Thirteen chefs are new to the competition and five competitors are from contract catering companies but sadly none of this year's regional finalists are women.
Commenting on the lack of female chefs in the competition, Alain Roux said: "It's the 34th year of the Roux Scholarship competition and with up to 100 entries each year and some TV exposure it's true to say that thousands of chefs have been inspired by the experience of competing. Unfortunately there are statistically less women in the industry and as a result there has always been a much lower number of female applicants than male. With less than 10% of the total number applying on average it follows that there are fewer women who get through to compete and indeed only one has gone on to win in our history. In a kitchen brigade, the same as in any team who work together the most creative and successful have a mix of gender, age and experience and we'd like to see that in our group of scholars."
Alain added that he would love to see more women apply and highlighted the fact that all young chefs need support from their establishment to enter competitions like the Roux Scholarship. "It's incumbent on head chefs and restaurant owners to mentor and encourage their talented chefs to be courageous and enter," he siad. "There are some wonderful mentors like John William's at the Ritz, Simon Rogan, the Galvin brothers as well as many of our previous winners, who regularly take time to cultivate and encourage young talent in this way. We need an even greater focus on this and I want to ask for help from more senior chefs across hospitality to actively spot potential scholars; men and especially women to even the balance and to send them our way."
This year's challenge is to create a recipe to serve four people using one whole fresh rainbow trout weighing anywhere between 1.5 - 1.75kg (maximum 2kg) and 800g live mussels, together served plated and accompanied by two garnishes. One garnish must include jasmine rice and the other to be a garnish of choice. One of these garnishes can be served separately if preferred. A sauce must accompany the dish.
Competitors will have two and a half hours to cook their dish, along with a dessert from a mystery box of ingredients given to them on the day. The judges will be looking for recipes and methods, which demonstrate the best balance of creativity, taste, style and practicality in the finished dish.
Six winners selected from across the two regional finals will go through to the national final, which takes place on Monday 10 April at Westminster Kingsway College, London. The 2017 Roux Scholar will be announced at a prestigious award ceremony at The Langham, London, that same evening.
French chef and restaurateur of the three-Michelin-starred Maison Pic will be honorary president of the judges.
Speaking about this year's challenge, Michel Roux Jr said: "These ingredients were an inspired choice, they've really made the chefs think. In particular, there are some very imaginative interpretations of jasmine rice which I'm looking forward to tasting."
Alain Roux said: "The involvement of more scholars on the judging panel brings a refreshing new dimension and means we have a wide range of experience, cooking styles and perspectives that creates a lot of lively debate! Some chefs have kept their dishes relatively simple, some are more elaborate, it's easy to tell who has tested, tasted and refined their recipes until they work."
Andrew Fairlie, the first person to win the Roux Scholarship, and now a judge said: "Overall there was a high standard of entries. What surprises me is that some chefs continue to underestimate the importance of their written entry. They need to consider that we judge this blind and only have what's written down to go on. Once the names were revealed it was clear that a number of great chefs are slipping through the net because of a lack of attention to detail in the presentation and description of their dishes."
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