Battle of the chefs - Sea feud

By Max Gosney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chef

Sea feud
Sea feud
Seafood takes centre stage as this month's battle pitches the head chef of the Bridge at Fenny, Milton Keynes, against her sous chef. Max Gosney...

Seafood takes centre stage as this month's battle pitches the head chef of the Bridge at Fenny, Milton Keynes, against her sous chef. Max Gosney reports.

The chefs

Name:​ Kim McNab Age:​ 25 Position:​ Head chef at the Bridge at Fenny, Fenny Stratford, Buckinghamshire. Experience:​ Kim studied for an NVQ catering course at Bletchley College in Buckinghamshire before joining the Bell & Dragon at Cookham in Berkshire as a sous chef. It was whilst at Berkshire College that Kim met Tony O'Reilly, owner of the Bridge. Tony was a lecturer on the course and offered Kim a job at his pub last year. Favourite food:"It has to be Italian,"​ says Kim. "I love all the herbs that are used in the cooking. Gnocchi is a great favourite of mine."Ambition:"I'd like to own my own pub,"​ says Kim. "But it takes a lot of time, dedication and money, which is something I'm short of currently."Why I'll win:"I think I have the edge on James as I'm more experienced. But he can be very creative so I'm not completely assured of victory."

Name:​ James Walker Age:​ 21 Position:​ Sous chef at the Bridge at Fenny. James joined the pub in July.Experience:​ Like Kim, James studied for a catering NVQ at Bletchley College in Buckinghamshire. He left college to join the catering division of the Tate Modern Art Gallery in London. He worked in the restaurant for a year before he opted to return to pub kitchens and joined the Bridge team. Chef fact:​ James watched a cook-off between colleagues at the Tate Modern. "It was funny watching them run around,"​ he says. Though, James admits, this afternoon he is likely to replicate their frenetic approach. Ambition:​ James plans to work his way up to a head chef position.

The battle

Kim McNab, head chef at the Bridge at Fenny, in Fenny Stratford, Buckinghamshire, was determined to show the boys how it's done when she became the first female entrant to try to beat the clock - and her competitor - in PubChef's Battle of the Chefs contest.

Standing in the way of girl power was the Bridge's sous chef James Walker. James was determined to teach his boss a culinary lesson by winning the contest. However, Kim was so confident she has promised James her job for the week if he beats her. Let the battle of the chefs and the sexes commence.

The challenge

Time: Each chef receives a box of mystery ingredients and is challenged to create two dishes in less than 45 minutes. The dishes will all be based on four types of seafood supplied by Woodward Foodservice. The selection features swordfish, sea bream, scallops and clams.

Winner takes all

As well as the battle for the title of September's Battle of the Chefs, Kim and James have a personal wager on the contest. If James takes victory he will take Kim's position as head chef at the pub for the week. "If he beats me today then it's what he deserves,"​ she says. "I bet he'll get me peeling loads of potatoes if he does become the boss."

However, the confident Kim doesn't think she'll be moving down the kitchen pecking order in the near future. "I think I've got the skills to create a great dish."​ Before After a few adjustments to the pub kitchen to allow the PubChef film crew better access to the star chefs, the contest begins. Kim swigs a few gulps of beer to assist her performance. "It helps with my confidence,"​ she says.

And they're off

The chefs draw straws for their seafood. Kim gets the swordfish and clams whilst James takes the sea bream and scallops. Both chefs sift through the rest of the ingredients, which they will share during the cook-off and begin to formulate recipe ideas. "I think I'm going to do a dish with each type of seafood rather than combine them,"​ says Kim. James has his own plans for the sea bream. "I think I'm going to stuff it,"​ he says.

40 minutes to go:​ James gets to work on his sea bream by slicing it up. He plans to stuff the fish with diced oranges. Kim wraps her swordfish in Parma ham and begins to dice her ginger, garlic and chillies.

35 minutes to go:​ James starts stuffing the sea bream with orange segments. The finished fish are put in a roasting tray and combined with butter before being placed in the oven. Kim chops up her dill and grills her swordfish steaks.

30 minutes to go:​ Kim adds her stock ingredient of tomato and pepper soup and puts it on the stove. She plans to combine it with the clams and pasta. James opens up his scallops and removes the meat from the shells. With only 15 minutes gone, Kim is feeling confident. "Plenty of time,"​ she says with a smirk.

25 minutes to go:​ Kim fries the chopped garlic, chilli and ginger in some olive oil. She adds her pasta and rice to the stove. "I'm going to make a risotto with the rice, garlic, chilli, ginger and milk,"​ she says. James has decided on the recipe for his shellfish. "I'm going to make a batter up and deep-fry them,"​ he says.

20 minutes to go:​ Kim unpacks her asparagus, which she plans to serve with the swordfish. The cook-off is going smoother than planned, she says. "I'm trying to organise it so that anything that takes a long time is cooked first and I think I'm on target for a quick finish."​ However, the disappearance of a block of Parmesan cheese could throw her off course. "I hope I can find it in less than 20 minutes,"​ she jokes. James has made up his batter mix and begins to fry his scallops.

15 minutes to go:​ Kim takes time out from cooking to try to explain Milton Keynes maze-like road system whilst James checks on his sea bream.

10 minutes to go:​ James prepares an orange and butter sauce for his sea bream. Kim adds some extra milk to stop her risotto sticking to the pan.

5 minutes to go:​ Kim chops up garlic and parsley sauce and combines with olive oil. The sauce will be used to garnish the swordfish. James begins to put his sea bream on the plate, resting it on a bed of mixed leaves.

1 minute left:​ Kim lays the swordfish on abed of risotto and tops with asparagus spears. Then she adds the tomato and pepper sauce to the clams and pasta and finishes with time to spare. James places his battered scallops back in their shells and removes his rice from the stove.

Time's up:​ Both chefs take a sip of beer and smile in relief as they present their dishes to the judges. Kim serves up her two dishes of grilled swordfish and clam pasta, and James offers battered scallops and stuffed sea bream.

The results

This month's judging panel comprised of Lee Whitehead​, a graphic designer in Milton Keynes, builder Gary Jones​ and owner of Fenny Stratford-based tanning salon Stewart Boon​. The tasting panel give marks for timing, creative use of ingredients, presentation and taste of the dish. Kim's swordfish with creamy risotto is a clear favourite among the judges who feel that it complemented the rich flavour of the fish.

Her clams with tomato and pepper pasta looks appealing and provides an interesting range of flavours, according to the panel. James' battered scallops would provide a fantastic pub snack and could benefit from an oriental sauce, the judges say. The panel decides that Kim should be crowned champion, though they are impressed with James's two creations.

The finale

The chefs sit patiently by the bar as they await the judge's final decision. Kim is relieved to hear that she has won the contest and smiles broadly after receiving her bottle of bubbly. "I'm glad I didn't lose my job to James,"​ she confides. "I think he would have given me all the nasty jobs if he was head chef."

James says: "Kim did really well but another time, who knows what could happen? I really enjoyed the experience."​ Landlady, Julie O'Reilly hea

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