My name is Jack. I am a chef manager at BM. I had been at BM for a year when I saw the information for the chef of the year (COTY) competition. Wanting to expand my knowledge I thought the competition would be a great opportunity to develop new skills and push myself out of my comfort zone. After getting through the first two stages, I was delighted to be in the final with four other chefs. I was astounded when my name was read out as the winner. And when the prize was announced, I was overwhelmed! A three-day foodie extravaganza around the West Country with our Chef Director, Pete Redman, Chris Bolan, Head Chef at Adam Byatt’s Trinity and all the while trailed by Michaela Mulvey our in-house film maker!
3 Days Foodie Extravaganza around the West Country
It was a great few days and I kept a journal of my COTY prize trip. Monday morning came and we were picked up by Pete and driven to Cornwall. Once we arrived, we took the ferry across to Padstow. After looking around the quay we set off to Rick Stein’s for a classic fish & chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce. The fish was so fresh it nearly jumped off the plate!
We then went back on the ferry and set off to the stunning house we would be staying in for the next two days. In the evening I cooked with Chris and Pete. Deciding on what we were going to eat together and cooking with our colleague Michaela filming, made for a very entertaining night. Pete cooked a crossover style dish, like the scone ice cream we had at No6 (Pete’s clearly ahead of his time!) but he used curried cashew nuts with banana, yogurt, maple syrup and sea salt. Chris somehow pulled out a nduja dressed cos leaf salad with perfect croutons and capers. Both the dishes Pete and Chris cooked showed me how to gain a depth of flavour by using spices and seasoning whilst also adding in a freshness. What an incredible start to my trip!
Paul Ainsworth at No6
I ate mind blowing meals all day on the Tuesday. First stop was Paul Ainsworth at No6. We had a great view of the passé. And were treated to a four-course meal full of Cornish seafood. Each dish was explained in a fashion I had not experienced before. Each dish was described as it was served, with elements being added as you took in what every part of the dish. One of the standout dishes were the sweetbreads. The smoked eel escabeche was packed full of flavour and texture. Every bite tasted different to the last.
Nathan Outlaw’s New Road
Once we had finished at No6 we had a few hours break before heading to Nathan Outlaw’s New Road. We sat with a direct view of the kitchen and were able to watch the chefs as we dined. The menu consisted of twelve courses! It included beef tartare with poached oyster and caviar. The different temperatures of all the elements to this and the natural salinity made it a perfect amuse bouche.
The wild red prawn with Iberican ham mousseline was the best prawn I have ever and will ever taste. A simple cheese scone with home-made butter was one of the most delicious things I have eaten this year. It was everything you want and more. The home-made ice cream was made from leftover scones from the day before. They achieved a perfect sweet and savoury balance in the run up to our dessert course.The chocolate vol au vent was luxurious and the cep mushroom caramel sauce that came with it was like nothing I have ever tried before, a sweet mushroom? But it worked perfectly!
Each course was cooked using a different method, from poached and roasted to baked. One of my standout dishes was the baked hazelnut bass served with red wine sauce and rolled cabbage. I am looking forward to making this for my customers.
On the last full day of our trip, we travelled to Coombeshead Farm which is set in 66 acres of meadows, woodland and oak-lined streams. We had an inspirational and informative tour of the farm by Tom Adams. We saw all the produce they grow on the farm and the livestock they rear. When we got back into the kitchen, we watched a demonstration of how to break down a pig into the different cuts we would normally use. I saw how to tie a shoulder for roasting and how they make sausages. They provided us with great explanations about animal husbandry and different uses for their meat. They also explained about the different ageing times and curing methods.
Awesome Learning Experience
From the competition to the prize trip this was an awesome learning experience. To be up close and learn from some of the best chefs in the world was unbelievable. I really look forward to implementing the things I have learnt on the trip to wow my customers and teach more to my colleagues.
I encourage all the chefs in our business to take part in the competition. The support I received along the way made it dauting but not terrifying. It was a great opportunity to stretch myself and learn new skills. The icing on the cake was the prize! I learnt so much over the 3 days and these new skills and experiences will stay with me for ever.