Christian Grebenstein has been named as the next UK candidate for the Bocuse d'Or, after he won a cook-off in London earlier today.
Grebenstein, executive sous chef at the Ritz in London, was competing against Anthony Wright from University College Birmingham and Steve Love, chef consultant and former chef proprietor of Loves restaurant in Birmingham.
The three candidates had one and a half hours to prepare, cook and present three different hot garnishes, five portions of each, 15 pieces in total, suitable for accompanying a fillet of British beef supplied by sponsors Aubrey Allen.
Grebenstein's dish was enough to seal his status as the UK candidate for the competition, which is regarded as the World Cup of the culinary world.
The chef, who has never entered a culinary competition before, will now start preparing for the European selection to be held in Budapest next year, in the hope of securing a place at the world finals in Lyon in 2017.
Grebenstein's cooking career began in the Michelin-starred Wald und Schlosshotel in Friedrichsruhe, Germany. Within two years he was running the Entremetier section in the two-Michelin-starred Gästehaus Erfort in Saarbrücken. He moved to the UK in November 2011 to become senior sous chef of the Hempel, a luxury five-star boutique hotel in London. In February 2012, he moved to the Ritz London.
Commenting on his win, he said: "It was a good experience. I was quite stressed this morning. I have never done any competition before in my life and I wasn't perfectly happy with the outcome however it was ok. I didn't really have time to practice to be honest!"
His winning dish was a fillet of beef with goose liver crusted with king oyster mushroom, Perigord truffle sauce. His garnishes consisted of: leek royale surprise; braised carrot cylinder stuffed with pumpkin; Parmesan sphere on kohlrabi.
Judging at today's cook-off at Le Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London were past UK candidates Simon Hulstone (competitor in 2009 and 2011) and Adam Bennett (competitor in 2013 and 2015), as well as John Williams, executive chef at the Ritz and chairman of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts. Williams stepped aside when Grebenstein's dish was judged, leaving it to Hulstone and Bennett.
Williams said of Grebenstein: "He is a guy who has worked with me for nearly four years and hasn't done a competition before. We'll give him the time and the right kind of support and the right environment to prepare now. We have several kitchens and it is a case of picking the right time for him to be able to use them."
In addition to fielding Grebenstein as a candidate for the European selection next year, Team UK is also spearheading a bid to host the European heats of the competition in London in 2018.
Should the UK bid be successful, the European heats would be at London ExCeL.
Brian Turner, Team UK president and juror, who has headed the UK team for almost as many years as the Bocuse d'Or has existed, said before revealing the winner this evening: "It is the plan now of the Bocuse d'Or UK team to try to win the bid to run the European qualifiers, just as we will be going to Budapest in 2016, we would like to win that bid in 2018 to bring it here to London. It is going to take an awful lot of work and we are going to need a lot of help from an awful lot of people. I think it is about time that we showed the world where we are gastronomically and we should bring those people who are at the top of that gastronomic spectrum to the UK to see what our restaurants are about."
The UK team also plans to become an official Bocuse d'Or Academy, which it hopes will give the efforts of future UK candidates more prominence.
Setting up the Bocuse d'Or Academy is being driven by Andreas Antona, chef-patron of Simpsons Edgbaston and the Cross at Kenilworth. Antona has been appointed chair of the UK Academy and will be responsible for transforming the UK team into a professional organisation.