Two chefs from the Ritz London were among six contestants selected to compete in the finals of the Roux Scholarship 2019.
The finalists of the 35-year-old competition were chosen earlier today at two regional finals, held at the University of West London, Ealing, and University College Birmingham.
Ryan Baker and Spencer Metzger of the Ritz London will be joined by Olivia Catherine Burt of Claridge's, London; Michael Cruickshank, Bohemia, Jersey; Adam Harper, the Cavendish hotel, Baslow, Derbyshire; and Lewis Linley, Vacherin, London; to take part in the final which will take place on 1 April 2019.
The winner will be announced the same evening at an awards ceremony at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, when he or she will receive a bounty of prizes headed by £6000 and a three-month stage at a three-star Michelin restaurant anywhere in the world.
Cruickshank previously competed in the national final in 2017 and the regional final in 2016 and 2018. All the other finalists reached the final on their first time of entering the competition.
To make the final, the semi-finalists had to cook a dish they had created using a saddle of hogget and four hogget kidneys, with a potato rösti, another garnish of their choice and a sauce, followed by a dessert prepared from a basket of mystery ingredients including apples.
Michel Roux Jr, who headed the judges in Ealing, who included Sat Bains (Roux Scholar 1999), Rachel Humphrey, James Martin and André Garrett (Roux Scholar 2002), described the standard as "amazing". He added: "Every year it just gets better and better and the correctness of the cooking and the seasoning was beyond reproach."
In Birmingham, Alain Roux was joined on the judging panel by Brian Turner, Simon Hulstone (Roux Scholar 2003) and Angela Hartnett. He said: "There was a level of complexity in a lot of the dishes, which cannot be easy to execute at that level. The result was that the desserts were not so well-executed and they should have properly cooked and poached the fruit.
"All of the chefs showed an impressive level of skill. We would expect more simplicity next year. They need to improve their palate and need to taste their food."
Burt, who is the first female finalist since Sabrina Gidda in 2014 and 2015, said: "I'm super-excited. It's a really big achievement. I practised from the moment I heard I'd got through. It's always quite difficult work and practising, I've had lots of support from my head chef Martyn Nail] and also Matt [Starling] from when I worked at Fera."
The 2019 Roux Scholar will follow in the footsteps of Martin Carabott, senior sous chef of Hide restaurant in Piccadilly, London. He spent his three month stage at Eleven Madison Park in New York.