Award News 2013
With the saucepans bubbling and the frying pans sizzling
With the saucepans bubbling and the frying pans sizzling, some of the county’s finest chefs have been battling it out to win two of the prestigious titles in this year’s Carlsberg UK Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards.
The competition, devised by Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership (NEP), is now in its seventh year and is again aimed at celebrating all that is great about local produce and drink, recognising excellence within the county’s dining venues and rewarding those who work so hard within the culinary sector.
The accolades being vied for were those of ‘Young Chef of the Year’ (sponsored by Booker), for budding culinary stars aged 18-25, and ‘Chef of the Year’ (sponsored by TMI Foods and Cordant People) for those over 25.
Those competing for the senior title were (in alphabetical order):
Adam Church of Franks Steakhouse, Northampton
Lee Gaskins of The Terrace Restaurant at Highgate House, Creaton
David Simms of The Talbot Hotel, Oundle
John Tipson of The George & Dragon, Chacombe
Richard Walker of Fawsley Hall Hotel, Fawsley
The five, shortlisted from a record number of entries, were invited to the impressive kitchens of Northampton College to take part in a ‘Ready Steady Cook’ style challenge to prepare two courses, each being provided with a selection of store cupboard products from Awards sponsors Booker, including a shoulder of lamb, as well as their key Northamptonshire ingredients of rapeseed oil from Farrington Oils at Hargrave, cider from Saxby’s Cider at Irchester and rhubarb gin from Harrington-based Warner Edwards.
They were watched throughout the three-hour process by an expert panel of judges including Chef and Development Manager at category co-sponsor TMI Foods, Aaron Melly, former chef and now Northampton Branch Manager at category co-sponsor Cordant People, Chris Fleming, and Andy Ives, who trained at Tresham College in Corby and who is now Head Chef at Sunningdale Golf Club. Each observed, quizzed and scored the chefs before tucking into their varied dishes including braised lamb shoulder with a vegetable medley, herb-coated lamb with asparagus and tomato tortellini and rhubarb gin pannacotta with a white chocolate parfait.
For Andy, selecting a winner was an incredibly difficult decision; “It’s a real privilege to have been invited back to the county and to watch these talented chefs in action” he explained.
“Using some great local produce, they each demonstrated skills that the top chefs in London would be proud of and having to choose the best was a real challenge!” he added.
The second cook-off, also at Northampton College, saw some of the county’s finest up and coming chefs battle it out in the semi-final of the ‘Young Chef of the Year’. Like their senior counterparts, they too were provided with a basket of kitchen ingredients, including chicken legs, by sponsors Booker as well as the local rapeseed oil and rhubarb gin from which they had to create a main course for two people.
Drawing upon their wide variety of cooking talents, they served up a wonderful array of dishes for the judges – everything from ballotine of chicken with a coriander, lemon and thyme stuffing to dry-rubbed curried chicken legs to chicken fricassee with a warm new potato and asparagus salad.
Those contending with the tricky, but enjoyable task of choosing the finalists were Northampton College catering lecturer Richard Curtis, Peter Saunders, who is Catering Development Manager with category sponsor Booker, and Lee Scott, formerly head chef at the Silverstone circuit and now with his own restaurant, La Strada Nouva, in Towcester; “It’s really great to see that Northamptonshire is bursting with young culinary talent” explained Lee, “and to watch the chefs turn their ingredients into seven such varied dishes was quite something”.
“We were all really impressed by the skills they’re showing so early in their careers and I’m only sorry that I can’t be at the final because I know the judges are set for a wonderful morning!”
The five finalists, who now go forward to compete for the ‘Young Chef of the Year’ title in the final cook-off at Tresham College in Corby in August, are (in alphabetical order):
Ceara Campbell from The Manor House, Corby
Tamsin Hamilton-Testrote from Kettering Park Hotel, Kettering
Perry Langley from Nuovo, Northampton
Ben Williams from Franks Steakhouse, Northampton
Christian Young from The Castle Theatre, Wellingborough