Chester Grosvenor's Sam Griffiths wins National Chef of Wales title

16 December 2020 by
Chester Grosvenor's Sam Griffiths wins National Chef of Wales title

Sam Griffiths, a 26-year-old sous chef at the Chester Grosvenor hotel, has been awarded the National Chef of Wales title, having finished third last year.

Griffiths received an early Christmas gift when Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) president Arwyn Watkins made a surprise visit to the hotel today to present him with his trophy.

Griffiths said: "A lot of hard work and organisation went into this competition and it's amazing to win the national award for the country where I grew up and love."

"When you get such positive feedback from the judges, it's such a great feeling. I tried to keep my dishes simple and big on flavour, using the ingredients at their best and not trying to over-complicate things.

He added: "I just want to carry on learning and getting better every day, but I would like to open my own small restaurant some time in the future."

His prizes include £1,000, an engraved set of cook's knives made by Friedr Dick and £250 worth of personally selected tableware products from Churchill. He will also represent Wales in the Worldchefs Global Chefs Challenge.

The final should have been held at Cardiff and Vale College City Campus on 30 March but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead of bringing all the finalists together at a venue, it was decided to send judges to the establishments where the chefs work to watch them cook their three-course menus.

Only four of the original six finalists were able to compete as some establishments were closed due to the pandemic.

Competing against Sam were freelance chef Wayne Barnard; former Junior Chef of Wales winner and owner of Gaerwen Arms on Anglesey Andrew Tabberner; and former Culinary Team Wales member David Kelman, head chef at Cowley Manor hotel in Cheltenham.

The chefs had to cook a starter suitable for vegans, a main course using two different cuts of Welsh beef and a dessert including chocolate as the main ingredient.

Griffiths' ‘sunflower' themed starter comprised caramel artichoke tart, seeds and apple granola, followed by a ‘surf and turf' main course of poached fillet of Welsh beef, braised bavette, black garlic and Menai oysters. His dessert comprised dehydrated chocolate, jammy figs and bay.

Lead judge Nick Davies, Senior Culinary Team Wales manager and chef trainer in hospitality, food and drink at Cambrian Training, said: "Sam is going to be a star of the future and is a worthy winner.

"He demonstrated cutting edge skills and all his dishes had a theme and sensational flavours. He is at the right age, has learnt his trade in a great place and is definitely on the way up."

Danny Burke, coach to the Junior Culinary Team Wales and director of Olive Tree Catering in Runcorn, was also a judge, along with Colin Gray, CAW vice-president and managing director of Capital Cuisine in Caerphilly, and Karl Jones Hughes, head chef at Hotel Plas Hyfryd, Narberth.

Watkins said: "This new format has been a very positive experience, as it allows more chefs to be exposed to the competitions and gives host businesses the opportunity to showcase their talented chefs. We had a really warm welcome from the businesses.

"The competitions can add real value to hospitality businesses, the supply chain and skills. They have brought a bright ray of light to the resilient hospitality industry at the end of its worst ever year."

Harry Osborne
Harry Osborne

Meanwhile, 22-year-old sous chef Harry Osborne from the Quay Hotel and Spa in Deganwy, Conwy, was awarded Junior Chef of Wales, having also come third in the competition three years ago.

Competing against him were Thomas Martin of the Baileys Arms, Mountain Ash, and Oliver Thompson of the Gaerwen Arms on Anglesey.

Harry's winning menu featured a starter of stuffed roscoff onion, beetroot, lentils, wild mushroom and Persian pistachio. His main course was herb-crusted Welsh lamb saddle, lamb neck pithivier, broccoli, pickled red cabbage, pomme purée and lamb jus. Dessert was apple and cinnamon pressing, blackberry gel, honeycomb, crème pâtissière, oat crumble and yogurt sorbet.

As part of his prize, he will go through to the semi-finals of next year's Young National Chef of the Year contest, organised by the Craft Guild of Chefs. He also received a set of engraved Friedr Dick Knives and Churchill tableware worth £100.

Osborne said: "I was gobsmacked when told I had won. It means the world to me because it's a really big competition and great to put on my CV.

"I want to go as far I can in my career. After gaining more experience, I would like to work in London and eventually buy my own restaurant. I love trying different things with my dishes and like to shock people."

Lead judge Danny Burke said: "The competition is not just about the food on the plate. We watch the chefs from the moment they walk into the kitchen, how they set up and how they work under pressure.

"Harry worked very hard but was always in control of what he was doing, and he has an excellent mentor in head chef Ian Watson at the Quay Hotel and Spa."

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