Russell Bateman has become National Chef of the Year 2014 after winning the Craft Guild of Chefs competition at today's Restaurant Show.
Bateman, who takes over the accolade from Hayden Groves, executive chef at BaxterStorey, is head chef of Colette's Restaurant at the Grove, in Hertfordshire. His winning menu comprised oyster panna cotta with scallop tartare and celeriac, roasted veal sweetbreads and garam masala with cream girolles, turnip and a black garlic puree; plus a rocky-road style dessert, with three different kinds of chocolate, marshmallow and tuiles.
Second place went to Daniel Morgan, sous chef at Mayfair restaurant the Square, while Nick Edgar, head chef at Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons, came third.
His prizes include a £1,250 voucher towards the Lockhart product range; a study trip to France including dinner at a three-Michelin starred restaurant; a year's supply of Knorr Bouillon; £1,500 worth of Electrolux Professional equipment and a study trip to Dubai courtesy of Continental Chef Supplies.
Diana Camp (Kay), development chef for Reynolds, and the only woman in the line-up, won the best presentation award, which was decided by the public following the show on social media, after photos of all the competition dishes were posted online.
Each competitor was tasked with cooking a first course using fish or shellfish, a main course of meat, and a hot or cold chocolate dessert, in two hours. All the finalists will also be invited to attend a finalists' lunch by Alyn Williams at the Westbury.
Immediately after winning, new National Chef of the Year Bateman commented to the assembled crowd that he was "surprised and chuffed" to have won, and that the competition was "quality".
He told The Caterer: "To win is brilliant. Everything else works towards this as culmination. It's incredible to have been judged by [the panel]. It's a dream to cook for them, let alone be judged by them."
He added that there had been a great sense of camaraderie within the competition, and that everyone had helped everyone else. "Everyone's really supportive, that's what it's about," he added.
This year's final judges included co-chair Philip Howard, Clare Smyth, Marcus Wareing, Jason Atherton, Brett Graham, Monica Galetti, Hideko Kawa and Julie Walsh, plus David Mulcahy, vice-president of the Craft Guild of Chefs.
Speaking after the event, co-chair of judges Philip Howard told The Caterer: "Genuinely, the level of cooking was exceptional this year. The food was the best it's ever been, consistency-wise, and seasonally. It makes it clear that the state of cooking in this country is progressing, and in a very good place."
"Russell is just a good cook. He's organised, disciplined; he's got a good palate; and great craftsmanship," Howard said.
He advised Bateman that winning the competition was a great opportunity to shout about the industry, and that he felt that he would be a proud ambassador.
"You want people to be proud that they've won, and act as a mentor to the young chefs in the industry, and communicate positively about all the great things that are happening in the business."
He also advised chefs working in such high level competitions to stay calm, keep organised, and cook to their strengths.
Fellow judge Clare Smyth, who will take over as chair in 2015, said of Bateman's winning dish: "Russell produced two of the best dishes today - two show-stoppers that I would happily eat in any restaurant in this country." She encouraged all chefs to take part in the competition, as it was a great platform on which to get their name recognised.
The other four competitors were Andrew Gotting, executive group head chef, Galloping Gourmet; Lahiru Jayasekara, head chef, the Manor at Weston on the Green; Adam Handling, head chef at Adam Handling at Caxton; and Simon Webb, head chef, CH&Co.
The competition pits eight professional chefs against each other, all of whom must be aged 23 and over, and work in any area of hospitality, including hotels, restaurants, pubs, contract catering, fine dining, private or public sectors.
The final eight were selected via a series of heats at Sheffield College and Le Cordon Bleu London.