Team UK's Anthony Wright has missed out on a place in the Bocuse d'Or world finals in Lyon next year, after placing 17th out of 20 chefs competing in the European heats of the competition, as host nation Hungary stormed to victory.
Only those chefs placed in the top 11 in the European selection go through to the world finals in 2017, although the possibility of one of two wildcard invitations still remains.
Wright, a senior lecturer at University College Birmingham (UCB), his commis chef Thomas Downes, and coach Nick Vadis were up against top chefs from 19 other European nations at the European selection in Budapest, Hungary this week.
In the end it was Tamás Széll from the Michelin-starred Onyx restaurant in Budapest, Hungary who took gold in a result that was hugely popular with a vocal home crowd. His dish consisted of a leg of young deer grilled on charcoal with Hungarian spices, mushrooms and smoked magalicza pork fat and a lightly salted sterlet and langoustine glazed with pickled ramson seeds and brown butter.
Christopher William Davidsen of Norway took silver, and Alexander Sjörgen of Sweden was awarded bronze.
Photo: Thomas Downes (l) and Anthony Wright (r), preparing ahead of the competition. Credit: Jodi Hinds
Winner of the best meat dish in the competition was France's Laurent Lemal.
The theme for the meat dish was red deer from Hungary. Contestants were required to work with a saddle of young red deer, preparing a total of 14 portions of which 10 had to be presented complete or pre-cut and recomposed on a tray, and four arranged on plates. The chefs also had to work with a mystery ingredient, revealed the night before the first day of the competition, which turned out to be tarragon.
Winner of the best fish dish was Viktor Örn Andrésson of Iceland.
The chefs had to work with Danube sterlet sturgeon Acipenser Rutheus (five pieces of 1kg to 1.2kg) with its caviar (30g), producing 14 plates composed of 50% vegetables and fruit.
The best commis prize went to Sweden's Hampus Risberg.
Photo: Team UK's meat dish of loin of red deer with truffled chicken and pistachio crumb; venison pie with ox tongue, duck liver and truffle; glazed Williams pear; slow-cooked swede in carrot gel, cauliflower and haggis from the House of MacSween; fake truffle. Credit: Jod Hinds
It was a valiant effort from Wright, who was only revealed as the UK's candidate in December last year after it emerged that Christian Grebenstein, who won a closely contested cook-off held at Le Cordon Bleu in London in September that year, would be unable to compete for the UK in May 2016.
Photo: Team UK's fish dish of oak-smoked sterlet with nori lobster, aromatic herbs and hazelnut crunch. Credit: Jodi Hinds
Nick Vadis, who is an experienced Bocuse d'Or coach, having worked with Simon Hulstone during the 2010 European selection and 2011 world finals, said: "I think the team did a great job and got the food out and I think it looked good. Having been to quite a few of these, there are always things that happen which you can't plan for.
"We needed to have everything in the kitchen which was never in the rules before, whereas before you would have some of your kit like the gantry and the heated lamps sitting outside the kitchen and you would bring it forwards for service. To put a five foot piece of equipment which wasn't planned to be there always cramps the space. That's no excuse but there are little things like that. You are a well-oiled machine by the time you get to a European final or Lyon and it can derail things slightly."
Team UK, headed by president Brian Turner, who was part of the judging panel of 24 chefs, also faced other problems on the day. At one point, with about 1h20 to go, its official countdown clock froze and had to be rebooted about 20 minutes later by officials, although Vadis didn't feel that this incident in particular affected the team too badly.
Meanwhile, the team produced one of its garnishes for the fish dish on the side, when it fact it transpired that all garnishes had to be presented with the fish on the same plate, for which it appeared to have been docked 20 points.
But there was also the positive of having the British ambassador to Hungary, Ian Lindsay, in attendance at the competition to lend his support to Team UK.
Commenting on the spectacle, Lindsay said: "This is my first time at this competition and the thing that amazes is me is that most of us these days are used to watching TV chef shows like MasterChef or Great British Bake Off, and those all happen in a quiet atmosphere where people can focus. This is something else.
"How they are able to focus and concentrate amid this hubbub of chanting and cheering is just amazing. It is great to see Anthony here representing the UK, great to see he has got support, and it is absolutely fantastic."
Team UK will now have to regroup, having lost out on a place in the world finals, before the next European selection which takes place in 2018.
"I think Hungary did a great job here - to pick this competition up and take it on," said Vadis. "I'd also like to offer our thanks to the sponsors who have been fantastic - they are the lifeblood of the team. You hold your head high and say you represent your country. And I always say to chefs taking part in competitions that to be a good winner, you have also got to be a good loser. So you have to stay positive."
European Selection Bocuse d'Or 2016 - results:
1) Hungary - 1335 points
2) Norway - 1282 points
3) Sweden - 1272 points
4) France - 1265 points
5) Iceland - 1226 points
6) Finland - 1197 points
7) Netherlands - 1171 points
8) Switzerland - 1158 points
9) Belgium - 1126 points
10) Denmark - 1110 points
11) Estonia - 1049 points
12) Germany - 1042 points
13) Austria - 1039 points
14) Italy - 1027 points
15) Turkey - 996 points
16) Spain - 971 points
17) United Kingdom - 968 points
18) Russia - 834 points
19) Croatia - 818 points
20) Bulgaria - 798 points