Krishan Makol from Lexington Catering has been named Young Tilda Chef of the Year 2015 in the inaugural competition at this year's Hospitality Show.
A Lex School of Talent apprentice, Makol cooked a winning dish of kedgeree basmati with smoked haddock, soft boiled Legbar egg and curry sauce.
The 30-minute contest saw eight young competitors prepare two portions of a main course, using rice as the base ingredient. Chefs needed to be aged 21 and under on or before 1 January 2015, and could choose any rice from the Tilda range, including Easy Cook Basmati, Brown Basmati, Fragrant Jasmine, Arborio Risotto, Original Pure Basmati, and Basmati & Wild.
As part of his prize, which also included a medal and commemorative plate, Makol has now been entered into the senior Tilda Chef of the Year competition at Hotelympia 2016.
Judges included Frank Coughlan, executive chef at BaxterStorey; Steve Munkley, executive head chef at the Royal Garden hotel; Tony Murphy, executive chef at Chartwells at Compass Group; Matt Davies, group executive chef of the Lewis group; Gareth Billington, executive head chef of Everton FC; Diane Lane, editor of the Craft Guild of Chefs' Stockpot magazine; and Danny Leung, head chef at Lexington Catering, and winner of the senior Tilda Chef of the Year 2012.
Other dishes created included a wild mushroom risotto with Cornish halibut and leek; pea and ham risotto; golden pineapple rice with spiced prawns; and lamb cutlet with jasmine rice.
Commenting on the contest, which is in its first year, Leung congratulated the young chefs and explained that his judging was based on taste rather than presentation, and the extent to which the rice was considered a key part of the menu.
He told The Caterer: "That first mouthful I taste will tell me what I need to know. Forget about what it's served with. When rice is cooked properly, you get that smell and taste. I look for flavour more than presentation; I'm relying on my palette. The rice needs to be an integral part of the dish. It needs to be relevant."
Mark Lyddy, Tilda head of foodservice, explained that it was important for Tilda to introduce new young chefs to competition cooking using rice, especially with the growing interest in Asian and Mexican cuisine, of which rice can form a central part.
He explained to The Caterer: "We've found that it's great for the brand to be associated with the competition, and helps promote rice as a versatile ingredient. Today's competition has shown rice to be the hero of the dishes, and that rice can carry any flavour without overcomplicating it."
Explaining the thinking behind the new Young competition, and linking it to the senior version, he said: "We like to work with our winners; it's not just they get a prize and then go home. It helps the chefs get exposure, and also helps us develop new products. The more we talk to chefs, the more we understand them and their recipes, and the products they need."
The contest took place as part of the Salon Culinaire Live Theatre, at this year's Hospitality Show at the Birmingham NEC, which has run from 19-21 January.