Battle of the Chefs - Two Pubs go to War

By Max Gosney

- Last updated on GMT

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The month's contest becomes a double act as two chefs from two venues vie for the Battle of the Chef crown. Max Gosney reports on the ultimate duel...

The month's contest becomes a double act as two chefs from two venues vie for the Battle of the Chef crown. Max Gosney reports on the ultimate duel

Two heads can be better than one.

Famous duos such as Lennon and McCartney and Torvill and Dean are prime examples of how great partnerships can achieve great things.

Hoping to become a deadly double act chef's Hylton Le Roux, Dave Beattie, William Gnaly and Matt Fosker formed two rival teams as Battle of the Chefs went head to head in London.

Hylton and Dave, representing the home-team pub the Grange at Ealing, took on visitors William Gnaly and Matt Fosker, of the Prince Alfred & Formosa Dining Rooms in Maida Vale, in a contest which would decide local pride and whether too many cooks really do spoil the broth.

The challenge

Each team of two chefs receives a box of mystery ingredients and is challenged to create a main and dessert dish in less than 45 minutes.

Each team received a different set of ingredients, with both featuring Pritchitts Millac Gold, a long-life cream alternative.


An air of expectancy hangs over the Grange at Ealing on a grey April afternoon.

DevCo, which runs new investment concepts such as gastro pubs on behalf of the Spirit Group, is running a food-safety course at the pub.

More than 20 chef attendees are keen to pick up some tips from the Battle of the Chefs road show, according to Peter O'Sullivan, development chef at DevCo. "It's going to be a cracking event," he says. "We'll take a break from training later and bring the guys down to show them what it's all about."

With a watching audience the pressure is on for the two teams to perform but both appear unfazed. "We're looking forward to a good contest," says the Grange's head chef Hylton.

Fresh from watching UEFA Champions League football Matt, sous chef at the Prince Albert & Formosa, suggests a rule change. He says: "I think as the away team the marks our dishes receive should count double." But Hylton denies any home advantage. "The pots and pans are hanging there, what else do you need to know?" he adds.

Popular opinion among the watching fans suggests that this one is going to be very evenly matched. However, though the result is in the balance, one outcome is already assured, according to Anthony Worms, assistant manager at the Grange.

"First time you guys will have done some work isn't it?" he jokes.

And they're off

45 minutes to go: The Prince Alfred & Formosa wins the toss and team captain William decides to go for the chicken based ingredients. "I think this set will give us more options," he says. Both teams transfer their ingredients to the kitchen and the cook-off begins.

40 minutes to go: The Grange team decides to stuff their fillet steak with mushroom duxelles. Hylton works on the dish while Dave ponders dessert ideas.

"I think I'm going to caramelise the bananas," he says. The Prince Alfred & Formosa duo opt for a tournedos of chicken with a tarragon cream sauce followed by a chocolate and cherry truffle for dessert.

35 minutes to go: Both teams work frenetically as the dishes take shape. William blends his Millac Gold with garlic and tarragon for the chicken's sauce while Dave adds some butter to a saucepan and gets frying. He also decides on a panna cotta for dessert. Hylton dices up a red onion for his cous cous salad.

30 minutes to go: The Prince Alfred & Formosa team places their halved chicken on baking foil and cover in the tarragon cream sauce. William wraps the foil into a cylindrical tube and places it in the oven.

The Grange team slices open their fillet steak and Hylton fills it with the mushroom duxelles before tying it up with butcher's string.

25 minutes to go: The Grange duo get going on their dessert as Dave mixes up the flour, butter and sugar to make the pastry base for his panna cotta.

The Prince Alfred & Formosa boys are looking confident. Matt adds a blend of chocolate and Millac Gold into moulds and places them in the fridge ready for use in his final dessert.

15 minutes to go: The Prince Alfred & Formosa dice up red onion, spring onion and coriander for a pasta dish to accompany the chicken. Matt also fries off some leeks and boils some spinach for the chicken dish. The Grange chefs decide to use their leftover steak to make a mushroom stir-fry and blanch off some asparagus for the stuffed fillet steak.

5 minutes to go: The pressure is on as the DevCo chefs leave their training course to watch the culmination of the contest. The Grange are focusing on dessert as Dave attempts to make a praline with the sunflower seeds. The Prince Alfred & Formosa remove their chicken from the pan and fry it.

1 minute to go: Both teams frantically add the final touches to their dishes.

Times up: First blood goes to the Prince Alfred & Formosa who plate up just on time. The Grange boys have got some catching up to do.

The results

The judging panel comprised Pritchitts head of marketing Simon Muschamp, DevCo development chef Ian Loffel and PubChef reporter Max Gosney.The panel rated dishes on presentation, creative use of ingredients and taste.

An audience of chefs and pub-goers watched on as the trio of judges tucked into the teams' creations.

First up were the mains with all three judges impressed by the excellent quality of the Grange duo's fillet steak stuffed with mushroom duxelles and the Prince Alfred team's tournedos of chicken with tarragon cream sauce.

However, with a slightly superior presentation and a terrific accompanying cous cous salad the Grange team's steak took a narrow victory. But the home team still needed to win the desserts battle to secure local pride. They tried to woo the judges with three dishes including chocolate mousse in a tuile basket, caramelised banana on home-made shortbread with passion fruit syrup and caramelised banana with praline and cream Chantilly.

The Prince Alfred & Formosa duo stood in their way with a chocolate truffle with cherry soaked in cherry brandy and Chantilly cream.

Judges praised the Grange chefs for novel presentation, though dismissed the banana dish for looking better than it tasted.

The Prince Alfred & Formosa team's rich chocolate truffle worked well with the sweet cherries, though several judges felt it was slightly too heavy. In a close call the panel opts for the panna cotta on homemade shortbread as their favourite.

The finalé

A home win is announced by Simon Muschamp of Pritchitts to the applause of the locals at the Grange. Simon congratulates both teams on an impressive performance, which demonstrated "fantastic use of ingredients and great creative flair".

Hylton and Dave receive a bottle of Champagne and crowing rights over their beaten rivals. "It was fantastic fun," says an elated Hylton. "We don't often get the chance to do something like this and it shows what you can do when the pressure is on."

Mopping sweat from his brow, Hylton's team-mate Dave expresses relief after the win. "I was quite anxious before we got started. But I'm not sweating from nerves it's just the heat in that kitchen."

The Prince Alfred & Formosa chefs are gracious in defeat. Sous chef Matt says: "I'm pleased for Hylton and Dave. We've worked with each other and are all good mates. It would be nice to get them to our place for a second leg." Watch this space...

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