Adam Bennett has placed sixth in the European selection for the Bocuse d'Or in Stockholm today, and is through to the world finals.
Bennett, supported by commis chef Josh Allen, represented the UK in the competition, which saw 20 countries fight it out for 12 places in the Bocuse d'Or world finals, which take place in the French city of Lyon in January 2015.
The pair competed on the second day (8 May) of the two-day European selection, which was held at the GastroNord food festival in the Swedish city of Stockholm.
In first place was host country Sweden, with Denmark taking the second spot, and Norway rounding out the podium in third.
The prize for best commis chef went to Russia, while France won the special prize for best fish, and Finland won the meat prize.
As part of the challenge for the European selection, Bennett and the other competitors had to devise one fish and one meat dish for the competition's 23 judges, which included a panel of three independent judges: Elena Arzak, honorary competition president Bjorn Frantzen and competition president Mathias Dahlgren. Each of the other 20 judges represented one of the nationalities competing, including UK team president Brian Turner.
Bennett and Allen produced 14 plates of supreme of Swedish coalfish, seaweed sauce, and mussel ketchup for the fish dish, which included: coalfish with smoked salmon mousseline; saffron potatoes filled with creamed leeks; pea purée with baby onions and bacon; cucumber with poached oyster and sea pearls; mussel ketchup; and seaweed butter sauce.
For the meat dish, they produced 10 portions on a silver platter, as well as four plates of: ballotine of young Swedish pork with braised trotter and hock, and verjus sauce, which included: ballotine of young Swedish pork with sage, truffle and bacon; braised trotter and hock with vegetables; Savoy cabbage with bacon; carrot filled with ham and mustard; potato croquette with black pudding; and Bramley apple verjus sauce.
Commenting on the competition, Bennett told Caterer: "It's a massive adrenaline rush. It is a day you build to and when you actually get here it is nerve-racking but at the same time thrilling."
Asked if he felt more pressure this time around, having performed so well at the Bocuse d'Or world finals in 2013 where he equalled the UK's best ever performance, finishing fourth and winning a special award for best meat platter and best commis (for Kristian Curtis), he said: "It is a bit of a two-sided thing - you feel pressure because there is a weight of expectation from some people, but on the other hand you know a little bit more about what you are doing."
He praised his team, which includes: Allen, a second-year Culinary Arts Management student at the University College Birmingham; Matt Nicholls, who is studying an NVQ level 3 and has helped set up the run-throughs; and coach Idris Caldora.
Commenting on the team's performance, Bennett said: "They have been brilliant. Since I have done this competition from the first European in Belgium, then Lyon and now this, we just seem to have been really lucky with the people we have attracted. They just seem to have been really into it and inspired by it, they have worked really hard and they have all gelled as a team - that alone makes it a great experience."
Bennett has faced a punishing routine to reach this year's Bocuse d'Or European selection, balancing preparing for the competition with heading up the kitchen at Andreas Antona's recently opened the Cross at Kenilworth. That has involved starting the day by dropping his daughter off at school for 9am, before going to UCB for a Bocuse d'Or run-through and then travelling to the Cross at Kenilworth and working a full service before finishing at around 12am each day.
"It is mentally quite difficult because it is like doing two jobs, but if you want to win the Bocuse d'Or, you don't get it by sitting on your arse," Bennett said.
Meanwhile, coach Idris Caldora, commenting on the UK team's performance, said: "Everything went to plan, just like the run-throughs. Of course there were a lot of nerves at the beginning but it is like a game of football - once you have got into the first 10 minutes, you settle down and find your way of playing, and Adam and Josh did that."
"They were like swans on water but the feet were going mad underneath. But they were in control," he added.
Full Bocuse d'Or European selection 2014 standings: