Terry Wright, head chef of Compass Group's Eurest Services Royal Bank of Scotland contract in London, was last week named the contract caterer's Senior Chef of the Year - at the seventh attempt. He spoke to Daniel Thomas.
Caterer How do you feel having won the award?
Terry Wright I feel great - it's been a long time coming. I first entered the competition in 2002 and have been back every year since. It's good to finally get the win.
Caterer What was on your competition menu?
TW The amuse bouche was miniature tournedos Rossini, an inventive version of a classical dish; the fish course was seared pavé of cod with baby clam broth, bacon and sauté cavelenero; and for the main, I made honey glazed breast of duck, braised duck leg with girolle mushroom farce, served with orange and port jus fondant potato, carrot purée, glazed baby onions and shaved fennel. The main was quite a hard one to do as duck takes a lot of cooking - an hour and a half in this case - and you can easily go wrong. Dessert was caramelised Bramley apple tart tatin served with cinnamon ice-cream and a fricassee of pecan nuts.
Caterer What's your advice for chefs entering competitions?
TW When you enter a prestigious competition, it is vital to have back-up. Get as much feedback as you can - a second opinion is always important. And as the judges told us: don't forget to taste your food.
Caterer What do you think about the youngsters coming into the industry?
TW It's great to see the next generation of chefs excited about the opportunity to enter the industry. You need a lot of discipline and determination but that excitement is vital as well. There is every opportunity for students to go where they want if they keep their head down and work hard.
Caterer How has the recession impacted demand for fine dining at RBS?
TW Every site has had to tighten up and make allowances, but numbers [of diners] haven't really suffered - if anything, we have been busier. The challenge for us has been to do things cheaper. Previously we had an unlimited budget but now we have to do three courses for £12. So it means we have to stick to the seasonal calendar, shop harder and get better deals.
Caterer How do you see the overall fine-dining market evolving?
TW Chefs tend to be artistic, but they will have to focus more on cutting costs everywhere they can. It's challenging, but there are a lot of talented guys out there. Good things will come out of this as long as chefs are level-headed and communicate with their suppliers.
Caterer Where do you see yourself long term?
TW I'm getting some profile now, which bodes well. I have been at Compass since 1998 working at lots of business and industry contracts in London. I am a head chef now, but would like to achieve a group position in the near future.