by Ellen Manning
Restaurant Story head chef Tom Phillips has beaten off competition from four fellow top UK chefs to become Team UK's representative at global culinary competition the Bocuse d'Or.
Phillips, 25, was chosen after a gruelling selection day held at the National Skills Show at Birmingham's NEC on Saturday (November 18).
He will now go on to represent the UK at the European finals of the Bocuse d'Or - the culinary equivalent of the World Cup - in Turin, Italy in June 2018.
As part of the selection, the five chefs took part in a cook-off lasting three hours and 45 minutes, preparing a fish dish with three different garnishes and a sauce using fjord trout and lobster as the main products as well as a meat platter using a short saddle of lamb, also served with three different garnishes and a suitable sauce.
The dishes were judged by a jury led by UK team president Brian Turner and including: vice president and Bocuse d'Or UK candidate 2013 and 2015, Adam Bennett of the Cross at Kenilworth; technical director of Team UK and executive chef of the Ritz, John Williams and Idris Caldora, former Bocuse d'Or candidate and coach of Team UK 2015 team.
Bocuse d'Or ambassador, Claude Bosi of Bibendum, and Philip Tessier, who secured silver for Team USA in the Bocuse d'Or 2015 and coached the winning team in 2017, also joined the jury.
The jury declared Phillips the winner of the contest, with Adam Thomason, executive chef, Restaurant Associates, Deloitte London the runner up. Their rivals were: Chris Hill, premier sous chef, the Ritz, London; Frederick Forster, executive chef, the Don restaurant, London; and
Tony Wright, senior lecturer at University College Birmingham and Bocuse d'Or candidate 2016.
Brian Turner, who praised all five chefs for their performance, said: "It's one of those trite statements but it could well be life-changing. It's a bit like Strictly, it's our version of the X Factor.
"You get to a moment when you are moving nicely on in life, you have got success and somebody says to you, ‘there's a big mountain there to climb'. And he has got a big mountain to climb, but the first step is he has to be able to cook, which he has proved today."
No UK chef has ever reached the podium at the Bocuse d'Or world finals, which take place in Lyon, France every two years. Phillips is now hoping to go all the way in the competition, making it through the European finals in Turin and getting to Lyon in 2019.
He told The Caterer: "It's fantastic. I'm shocked but I'm excited now to have the conversations about what happens next. This is something I had put a lot of effort into and wanted to do for a long time. It's daunting but where the team is at right now we are in a good position to go far."
To find out how to support the UK team email firstname.lastname@example.org.