The names of the six finalists for the Roux Scholarship 2015 have been revealed.
Scott Dineen, Goldman Sachs, (BaxterStorey), London
Gavin Edney, Cliveden House, Taplow, Berkshire
Sabrina Gidda, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, (Restaurant Associates), London
Daniel Lee, JP Morgan, (Aramark), London
Richard Pascoe, the Feversham Arms hotel, Helmsley, North Yorkshire
Ian Scaramuzza, Hibiscus Restaurant, London
Three of the finalists - Dineen, Gidda, and Pascoe - all reached the finals for the first time last year.
Lee was knocked out in last year's regional finals, and Scaramuzza and Edney are both new to the competition.
The finalists were chosen following two regional finals on 12 March 2015 at the University of West London and University College Birmingham.
In London, the judges were Michel Roux Jr, Andrew Fairlie and David Nicholls. In Birmingham, they were Alain Roux, Angela Hartnett MBE and Steve Love (Roux Scholar 1997).
Contestants had two and a half hours to cook their dish as originally submitted.
There was also a challenge to create a dessert from a mystery box of ingredients. The brief was to prepare a dessert for four people using the ingredients supplied. One ingredient could be omitted but at least 50% of the following ingredients had to be used:
150g caster sugar
100g plain flour
8 medium size candied chestnuts in syrup
30 cl whole milk
2 leaves of gelatine
300g fresh strawberries
The finalists will now go on to compete at the national finals on 30 March at Westminster Kingsway College in London.
This time, the recipe details will be a complete surprise and 30 minutes before the start of the competition, the finalists will be given the recipe and ingredients for a main dish, either classic or modern, and asked to prepare and present it to judges.
Andre Fairlie, Michel Roux Jr and David Nicholls, judging in London (image credit: Graham Flack)
What the judges said:
Commenting on the standard in the competition, Michel Roux Jr said: "The standard of cooking in London was fantastic and exceeded expectations, it was very difficult to split them. No one overcooked the bird, all were moist and almost everyone seasoned well. It's the best food I've ever tasted in a regional-final! Everyone should be proud of their efforts today."
Alain Roux added: "The chefs competing today all deserve a big credit. The regional finals are daunting and they should be proud of what they accomplished."
"Unfortunately for a few chefs using a water bath, some meat was undercooked, and lost its shape. I don't mind if the breast is rolled, but if you square and trim the bird, you lose the essence of the guinea fowl."
"As a result of strong performances in London, Richard was the only finalist from Birmingham. His dish was beautifully prepared, and nicely presented, de-boned with the legs, and breast etc all worked in different ways. There were not too many ingredients on the plate. The ballotine of guinea fowl looked very pretty and the whole dish was well executed. The seasoning was very good and the sauce had good flavour."
Andrew Fairlie said: "The desserts I tasted in London were better than ever. Candied chestnuts are difficult to work with and not something you come across often, it's brave that so many of the chefs used them."
"What would I have cooked if it was me? I'd have omitted the strawberries and made a classic Mont Blanc dessert with pureed chestnut, using shards of meringue for the peaks."
Angela Hartnett, who judged in Birmingham said: "It's good to see repeat contestants coming through. There were some interesting concepts, but once again the chefs here in Birmingham struggled with the dessert."
"In the kitchen I tasted some sauces and they all tasted very good. I have been a judge for 3 years now, and we really want to take someone through who is competent enough. It's not an easy competition. They should all be very proud of themselves."
"Water baths should be banned!"
David Nicholls added: "The level of cooking in London was high, in other years some of the chefs we sent home would have got through. I would have been very happy to be served any of the main courses in a restaurant."
And Steve Love said: "It is clear that some of the chefs did not taste their food, and pastry skills need to be honed if they want to enter a competition of this calibre."
Alain Roux, judging in Birmingham (image credit: Paul Thomas Photographic)
What the competitors said:
Scott Dineen: "I'm overwhelmed - over the moon and honoured to be in my second final!"
Gavin Edney: "I'm stunned and excited. I'm really looking forward to the final."
Sabrina Gidda: "That was tough! I'm close to tears but it feels amazing to get through and I'm proud to be representing female chefs in the final of this prestigious competition."
Daniel Lee: "I'm speechless, I didn't expect to hear my name. Now I've got to get working towards the final."
Richard Pascoe: "I am relieved to get through. I worked hard for last year's final, and I will work hard for this year's final. My preparation will be lots of reading from Larousse Gastronomique and practicing classical techniques. I really hope that the last 2 years' hard work pays off."
Ian Scaramuzza: "I was shocked and relieved to hear my name. Mine was the fifth name to be called and usually they only take four chefs from London."