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"Industry recognition has always been a by-product of his unquenchable desire for culinary knowledge, the end-result of his curiosity to see what scientific principles underpin the chef's art"
If ever there was someone that embodied what the Catey Chef Award is all about it is Heston Blumenthal, the 2004 recipient of the accolade. He's an undisputed trendsetter in the culinary world - his ground-breaking cooking at the Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, continually challenges the boundaries of his chosen craft. In the process he inspires not only the young chefs in his brigade but countless others working in all sectors of the industry across the UK.
And it's not only in his own back yard that Blumenthal's unique approach to cooking has attracted a following. He's one of the few British chefs whose culinary progress is monitored outside of the UK - a fact recognised in January last year at the prestigious Madrid Fusion Gastro Summit, where he shared a platform with Spain's berchef, Ferran Adria. As it turned out, January 2004 was a memorable month for Blumenthal as it was also the month that the Fat Duck received its third Michelin star.
Not that Blumenthal has ever actively chased Michelin stars: industry recognition has always been a by-product of his unquenchable desire for culinary knowledge, the end-result of his curiosity to see what scientific principles underpin the chef's art. It's an attribute that makes him an ideal role-model for young chefs, even if they choose to cook in a style widely different from his own.
Richard Guest (head chef at the Castle hotel in Taunton) who was one of many Blumenthal nominators for last year's Chef award summed up his qualities thus: "What he has achieved can only create interest and hunger in young chefs, something for them to aspire to and learn from. With passion like his, people will listen, and perhaps learn completely new ways of preparation, cooking and presentation."
Michelin stars, the Catey Chef Award and a raft of other accolades that came the Fat Duck and Blumenthal's way in 2004 made life almost impossibly hectic for Bray's molecular flag-bearer. But it's a mark of his commitment to the industry that Blumenthal still found time to talk and demonstrate at countless food conferences, to guest-edit Caterer (on 25 November), and, most importantly, to support the work of the Ark Foundation. The Ark counsels people in the industry suffering from drug and alcohol addictions and holds educational seminars for individuals and organisations on substance abuse.
Whichever way you look at it, Blumenthal has made - and is still making - a massive contribution to the national and international culinary scene. He is, of course, not the only Chef award winner who has done so: alumni of this particular Catey academy include Gordon Ramsay, Rick Stein, Raymond Blanc, Anton Mossiman - unique 4chefs, one and all.
Now the search is on to find the 2005 Chef Award winner. If you know someone who is at the top of their tree and in the vanguard of cooking in the UK, just fill in the nomination form on the back page, together with a supporting statement of not more than 200 words. The deadline for submissions is Friday 4 February. Judging takes place on Tuesday 10 May at Browns hotel, London.
Judges' criteria - The award is open to chefs from all sectors of the industry.
- It recognises trendsetters and innovators.
- The recipient must have mad a considerable contribution to the industry as a whole, over and above his or her responsibilities and challenges at work.
- The award recognises an individuals input to the development of the profession.
All nominations in this category MUST be accompanied by a supporting statement.