PubChef Awards - Seafood

By Natalie Cooper

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dish Chef

With growing customer awareness of the health benefits from eating fish, recipes in the seafood cook-off reflected the category's increasing...

With growing customer awareness of the health benefits from eating fish, recipes in the seafood cook-off reflected the category's increasing importance on the pub menu. Natalie Cooper reports

Our five finalists for the seafood cookoff, selected from numerous paper entries, hailed from Derbyshire, Sussex, Surrey and Buckinghamshire.

With an hour and 15 minutes to prepare and cook their dish - though they were allowed to fillet the fish before they arrived at the cook-off - all the chefs were keen to get started on their seafood, which included wild seabass, salmon, plaice, lemon sole, crab, squid, and prawn.

The judging panel included Ian McKerracher, former chief executive of the Restaurant Association and Egon Ronay

guide inspector; Alec Howard, managing director of Food & Beverage Solutions and specialising in menu consulting; Paul

Hickman, development chef for Lincat, representing the Craft Guild of Chefs, and Peter Milsted, foodservice director of category sponsor Young's.

Chef: Scott Pickett, second chef

Pub: The Merrie Harriers, Cowbeech, Herstmonceux, West Sussex

Dish: Plaice mousseline tagine with okra, pea and mint couscous

Menu price: £14

Cost of ingredients: £4.50

Why this dish? "I invented this dish because I like to experiment with new ideas. I like working with fish because it's quick, easy and simple."

Background: Scott originally comes from Cornwall so he was brought up in a fishing environment. He says: "I always eat seafood and treat it as a luxury." Scott is in charge of planning the starter dishes on the menu, which always includes two seafood options, giving him the chance to demonstrate his creativity in working with seafood. His favourite fish is monkfish.

Chef: Nelson Linhares, head chef

Pub: The Swan, Chesham, Buckinghamshire

Dish: Poached fillet of lemon sole on an asparagus and langoustine risotto with saffron beurre blanc

Menu price: £15.25

Cost of ingredients: £4.15

Why this dish? "I come from a fine-dining restaurant background so I wanted to implement something that was a little bit more elaborate."

Background: Nelson is Portuguese, he grew up near the sea and his mum cooked a lot of fish at home. He recently moved from London to Chesham because he wanted to turn his hand at

working in a pub kitchen. Nelson has been working at the pub for six months and is trying to get the right menu concept to encourage people in pubs to eat more seafood. He has even run a seafood evening.

Chef: Adrian Cooling, owner and acting head chef

Pub: Druid Inn, Birchover, Derbyshire

Dish: Maryland-style crab cake, old bay squid, sweet potato wedges, homemade Druid Inn ketchup

Menu price: £12

Cost of ingredients: £4

Why this dish? "I really like to eat this dish and we sell it a lot. It's usually put on as a special as crab comes on to the market intermittently."

Background: Adrian opened up the Druid Inn in February 2005 and also runs the Thyme Café in Sheffield. The Druid averages around 700 covers a week. He buys his fish at the market in Manchester every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

As the Druid Inn is in a rural area, half its trade is weekend business from tourists and ramblers.

Chef: Adam Staniforth

Pub: Jolly Farmer, Worplesdon, Surrey

Dish: Pan-fried wild seabass with risotto of crab and prawn

Menu price: £14.95

Cost of ingredients: £3.65

Why this dish? "This is my signature dish and it's always a good seller. I believe it's a quality dish that is value for money while also providing a good return on GP," says Adam. "Seabass is beautiful and risotto is my other favourite, so

pairing up the two was a natural progression."

Background: Adam has two specials boards, one just for seafood, to satisfy customer demand. During the week he puts on two or three specials, increasing the number to three or four at the weekend. He says: "People are turning away from

more fatty meats and are willing to try out much more adventurous fish dishes."

Chef: Bernard Booker

Pub: Blacksmiths Arms, Lewes, East Sussex

Dish: Wild seabass and salmon fillet duo on a creamed spinach sauce

Menu price: £14.95

Cost of ingredients: £4.40

Why this dish? "Wild seabass on its own is too expensive so the salmon helps to keep the costs down. The salmon is an oily fish and because the seabass is also slightly oily, they both complement one another. The dish is fairly simple and it's at an affordable price."

Background: Bernard started out in a bakery and his cheffing career came from there. He's worked for restaurants, hotels and also had a stint in event catering. Bernard believes that people are looking to pubs to offer an evening out where they can get quality food that's sensibly priced.

The judges' verdict on the finalists

Scott Pickett: "We loved Scott's concept of placing a

big pot of food on the table to be shared with friends. His dish was full of interesting flavours. Every forkful kept you wanting more and more because it was so different - a brave dish."

Nelson Linhares: "Nelson is an impressive technician

who is very methodical in the kitchen. He demonstrated a lot of passion and flair with a great lightness of touch and was

precise in his approach to his mise-en-place operation."

Adrian Cooling: "Very comfortable at work, Adrian was controlled and measured in his approach. He wasn't afraid to adapt and start again if it anything went wrong, which shows

maturity. We liked his derivative cooking that paid homage to the region."

Adam Staniforth: "Adam created one of the most harmonious dishes, his dish was the most cohesive and showed that he was in touch with what customers would expect to find on a

pub menu. He encapsulated what this heat was all about."

Bernard Booker: "Bernard produced the best-tasting fish of the day and his dish displayed generous home cooking. His dish is bound to be popular on the pub menu. He showed lots of dedication, and love for what he does shone through."

The winner

Adam Staniforth of the Jolly Farmer, Worplesdon, Surrey, won the seafood cook-off category in this year's PubChef Awards.

Head chef at the Jolly Farmer for 15 months, Adam describes his menu as "stylised, traditional fare". He takes traditional dishes and gives them a modern twist to create an exciting menu. The Jolly Farmer is a Fuller's pub, so Adam receives a list of nominated suppliers he can work with, but says he pretty much has a free rein when it comes to menu planning. For his fish supplier, Adam uses Simpsons Fisheries.

Adam said: "The fish is very fresh. I speak to my supplier between two to three times a week and they call me up with specials. I always check to see if the fish is fresh by checking the scales, see if the eyes are still clear and

make sure it's been gutted well."

He admits that it's only in the last six to eight months that he's really learnt to work with fish after being taught by his second chef, who is experienced in handling fish. Adam also gains inspiration from speaking to fishmongers, reading books and food magazines, but closely follows Gordon Ramsay and Gary Rhodes.

On winning, Adam says: "I'm utterly shocked and lost for words. It's just huge. This is a massive compliment and it's great for my self-confidence. I just didn't expect to win."

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