The heat was on in The Amex Stadium kitchens on Wednesday 29th October as seven of the finest young chefs in Sussex took part in a sizzling ‘MasterChef’ style cook off to decide the winner of the hotly contended Sussex Young Chef of the Year award, sponsored by Sodexo Prestige, as part of the Sussex Food and Drink Awards 2014/15.
Chefs competing were Dan Cotton from The Crabtree Inn in Lower Beeding, Cordelia Friday from Wabi in Horsham, Wade Moss from the Hilton Metropole in Brighton & Hove, Tom Pring from Galin in Heathfield, Tim Sheed from South Lodge Hotel in Lower Beeding, Ben Thomas from the Hilton Metropole in Brighton & Hove and Ryan Tomkinson from the East Sussex National in Little Horsted.
The chefs, who were nominated by public vote and then shortlisted from their written application, were asked to create a menu to be served at a special dinner for conference & business media as well as event bookers launching the Amex Stadium’s new seasonal, local menu and showcasing the superb catering offer at the stadium supporting local farmers and growers.
The budget for the ingredients for all three courses was £15 per person and the chefs had just 90 minutes to produce two plates of each course to present to the judges. Malcolm Emery, Principal Chef and David Mulcahy, Craft & Food Development Director at Sodexo Prestige, headed up the judging panel and they were looking at taste, presentation, market appeal and consumer trends used in the menus, as well as the sourcing and creativity of ingredients used, the balance and mix of the dishes and the workmanship and food hygiene used in the process.
The three grand finalists going forward are Dan Cotton from the Crabtree, Tim Sheed from South Lodge Hotel and Ryan Tomkinson from the East Sussex National. All three were presented with silver medals after the cook off and the runners up all received bronze medals from the judges. The final gold medal will be presented to the overall winner at the Sussex Food and Drink Awards Banquet in January.
Dan Cotton from The Crabtree Inn simply lives for food and his passion was evident in his final menu which he produced in the cook off. He presented a wonderful monkfish starter with a secret spice blend, earthy local hare with beetroot and salsify for the main course and to finish a superb apple and calvados dessert.
Known for his methodical, reliable and precise approach, Tim Sheed from South Lodge Hotel certainly gave 100% in the cook off with his mackerel, celery and watercress starter, venison and pear main course and delicious figs cooked in beer with honey to finish.
Ryan Tomkinson from the East Sussex National likes to push himself to the limit and he coped incredibly well under the pressure of the cook off producing a stunning gurnard and artichoke starter, roasted partridge main with a ragout of offal and kale and a perfect plum clafoutis to complete his menu.
Said Malcolm Emery, “The standard was incredibly high this year and yet again we have been so impressed with the dedication and professionalism that these young chefs have shown today. All the menus were of outstanding quality and it was incredibly difficult to separate the top three out – but the judges’ decision was unanimous. My congratulations go to the three winners today, but I believe all these young chefs have a bright future.”
Other categories in these sought after awards include best Sussex eating experience, food producer, drink producer, farmer, food/farm shop, butcher and farmers market. Finalists will be announced in November and all the winners and runners up will be revealed at the ‘Sussex foodie event of the year’, the Sussex Food & Drink Awards Banquet, at the Amex Stadium on 29th January 2015, hosted by patron of the awards Sally Gunnell OBE and Danny Pike from BBC Sussex. Tickets for the superb, seven-course Sussex feast and awards ceremony are now on sale – contact firstname.lastname@example.org