Hotelympia 2012 – Salon Culinaire preview

23 February 2012 by
Hotelympia 2012 – Salon Culinaire preview

The Salon Culinaire attracts chefs from all over the world to test themselves in the limelight. Tom Vaughan explains why the competitions attract 1,000 entrants and what visitors can expect from the beating heart of Hotelympia

"Some chefs just have that desire to compete; to stand up and be counted," says Salon director Peter Griffiths. And it is exactly that desire which drags hundreds of chefs - amassing almost 1,000 separate entries across the five days - from all over the world to compete in the Salon.

"They are not necessarily more refined than chefs who don't compete," Griffiths continues. "But while some chefs just express themselves through their restaurant menu, these guys also have the desire to do so in front of industry judges and the public themselves."

Hotelympia 2010 saw the Salon Culinaire judges hand out a record 700 medals (chefs can share final placements in many categories if their cooking achieves a certain standard) and Griffiths hopes that 2012 sees that number reach even higher.

However, there will be a few competitions that chef's won't want to share with their competitors. The first, the World Association of Chefs' Societies Global Chefs Challenge semi-final, takes place on Sunday 25 February from 7am to 1.30pm. The cook-off will see England (represented by the country's premier competition chef, Simon Hulstone) take on Ireland, Sweden and Denmark for a place in the grand final in South Korea in May.

Then that afternoon, it's the chance for the youngsters to show what they can do, with the junior version of the competition, the Hans Bueschkens Young Chefs Challenge lasting from 2-7.30pm.

Thirdly, there's the British Culinary Federation Chef of the Year final, taking place on Monday 27 February at 12.50pm. The competition will pitch such high-profile figures as Adam Simmonds, executive chef of his eponymous restaurant at Danesfield House in Marlow; Adam Smith, sous chef at the Ritz in London; and Sheldon Fonseca, sous chef at the Dorchester; together in a two-hour cook-off. All they have to do to be awarded the title is cook a three-course meal for two, under the watchful eye of a judging panel including the likes of Raymond Blanc, Alain Roux and Brian Turner.

"For the senior members, the Live Theatre is about flying the flag for their establishments and showing they have the ability to win gold," explains Griffiths. "For the younger members, it's a learning curve on the route to recognition of their own. It's about the industry getting together and showing each other and the public what is possible."

"La Parade des Chefs is a huge competition purely because it is so large in what it asks of competing teams," explains Salon director Peter Griffiths. "The amount of covers being cooked for against the amount of people in each team is a big ask, then they have to serve up to the public a meal that is priced higher than many Michelin-starred lunch menus, and justify its price tag."

Pitching 10 teams against each other in pairs over the five days of Hotelympia, La Parade de Chefs will this year serve the public £34-priced lunches from the likes of the House of Commons Culinary Team, the Panel of Chefs of Ireland Culinary Team and Claridge's hotel Team. Each team of six chefs will be required to devise and deliver a three-course menu to a 100-cover restaurant at lunchtime (see panel for a selection of menus) including a special chef's table of invited industry figures, who will also require amuse-bouches and pre-desserts.

"That last plate needs to be as good as the first," explains Griffiths. "It's a hell of a lot of work and shouldn't be underestimated."

Not merely a visual treat, the Salon Display is one of the biggest sources of potential inspiration at Hotelympia. "Young chefs can really learn what is achievable from edible products, if you have the skills," says Salon director Peter Griffiths.

Featuring works in the likes of marzipan, cakes and sugar, as well as a whole section of cold, glazed platters, some might see just a novelty gladiator shaped out of fat, but the true specialist will see something very different.

"Say you do have a gladiator shaped out of fat, the specialist judges are looking so closely at it - at how the trellising and the piping is done," he adds.

"It is all about intricacies and no imperfections. The hands have to be in exact proportion to the feet, they have to be holding a sword correctly, its facial expression has to be correct, the balance of colours has to be correct and it has to be visually striking."

With everything made off-site at competitors own kitchens and brought in for the specialist judges - many of whom are multiple gold-medal winners themselves - to mark, the Salon Display is where the real craftsmen show their handiwork. And it is certainly an inspiring place.

"I'd recommend all young chefs to come along and, if it inspires them, talk to the judges and gain advice on what mentors are out there and how to approach them," adds Griffiths.


Sunday 26 February 7am-1.30pm Global Chefs Challenge
2-7.30pm Hans Bueschkens Trophy

Monday 27 February 8-8.35am Sustainable Fish Dish
8.55-9.25am Churchill Pasta Dish
9.45-10.15am Gourmet Classic Challenge
10.40am-12.25pm Brakes Student Team Challenge
12.50-2.50pm British Culinary Federation Chef of the Year
3.15-3.45pm Master Chefs of Great Britain Challenge
4.05-4.50pm Schwartz for Chef Flavour Pairing Challenge
5pm Awards ceremony and prizegiving

Tuesday 28 February 8-9am Major Series Final
9.20-10am Elior Apprentice Skills Challenge
10.25-11.55am Sodexo Chef of the Year
12.25-2.25pm A Taste of Toque
2.55-3.55pm Tilda Chef of the Year
4.15-4.45pm Robot Coupe Challenge
5pm Awards ceremony and prizegiving

Wednesday 29 February 8-8.30am Junior Traditional Pasta Dish
8.50-9.20am Gram Masterclass
9.40-10.10am Junior New Zealand Lamb Challenge
10.30-11.30am Essential Cuisine Chefs Team
Noon-2pm A Taste of Toque
2.30-3.45pm Terinex Master Chefs Grand Prix
2.15-4.45pm Senior New Zealand Lamb Challenge
5pm Awards ceremony and prizegiving

The House of Commons Team
Sunday 26 FebruarySteelite restaurant, MKN kitchen
Seared stone bass with beetroot, leeks and Jerusalem artichokes
Slow-cooked duck breast, confit leg, Savoy cabbage and girolle mushrooms
Chocolate delice with salted almonds, banana and sesame

The Panel of Chefs of Ireland Culinary Team
Monday 27 FebruaryDudson restaurant, Electrolux kitchen
Baked Atlantic cod, wilted spinach, warm beetroot jelly, baby salad, butter sauce
Fillet of pork, braised belly, green cabbage, pea purée, apple mash, roasted carrots, jus
Toffee sponge and green apple textures

Claridge's Hotel Team
Wednesday 29 February
Steelite restaurant MKN kitchen
Melba-crusted salmon, girolles, pine scented cauliflower purée, lobster cream
Hay-baked rack of Kent lamb, rosemary and garlic jus, hotpot potatoes, caramelised parsnips and butternut squash purée
Manjari chocolate and earl grey and prune

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