PubChef Awards - Young Pub Chef

By Natalie Cooper, Jo Bruce

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Young pub chef Chef Culinary art

The PubChef Awards 2006 began by celebrating the talent of some of the country's youngest chefs. Natalie Cooper and Jo Bruce report Our inaugural...

The PubChef Awards 2006 began by celebrating the talent of some of the country's youngest chefs. Natalie Cooper and Jo Bruce report

Our inaugural cook-off in the PubChef Awards 2006 turned the

spotlight on the industry's young blood. With the overall quality of pub food rising, young chefs are now viewing hostelries as a serious career path and this category aims to recognise the talents of chefs in the early stages of their culinary careers.

Competitors in the Young Pub Chef category, open to pub cooks aged 21 and under, were asked to knock up a main

course using ingredients of their choice.

Our five finalists were selected from dozens of entries after impressing judges on paper with a dish recipe and method.

Judges also looked at their pub's menu and information about what they believe constitutes good pub food.

Finalists travelled from Devon, Lancashire, Norfolk and Hertfordshire to create a range of dishes using poultry,

meat, seafood and game.

The judges included Nigel Haworth, chef/director of Northcote Manor and the Three Fishes pub, both in Lancashire; Ian McKerracher, former chief executive of the

Restaurant Association and Egon Ronay guide inspector; Ben Bartlett, catering development manager for Union Pub

Company; Joyce Fox, business development manager of category sponsor Golden Crumb, and Martin Willsher, representing

the Craft Guild of Chefs, joint sponsors of this year's competition.

The finalists had 15 nerve-shredding minutes of cooking time.

Chef: Ryan Dutson, 18

Pub: White Hart Inn, Lydgate, Lancashire

Dish: Roast Goosnargh duck breast with braised celery, mushroom, ravioli and thyme potato

Menu price: £18

Cost of ingredients: £2.75

Why this dish? "I enjoy working with duck. I think the ravioli goes really well and it's a good mixture of flavours. It's on the pub menu. I've tried it a few times and it's really nice to work with."

Background: Ryan started his career aged 16 as a kitchen porter at the White Hart. After deciding he wanted to cook, he approached the pub's executive chef John Rudden and asked him for an apprenticeship. Ryan has worked at the 1,200-covers-a-week pub for two years. His ambition is to own his own restaurant.

Chef: Lee Goodman, 18

Pub: Williams Arms, Braunton, Devon

Dish: Glazed apricot and almond-stuffed chicken on wilted spinach with noisette potatoes

Menu price: £6.95

Cost of ingredients: £2

Why this dish? "Spinach is quite bitter and works well with the glazed apricot, which is obviously sweet." He used a chicken leg because it's a cheap cut and provides a good

return on GP.

Background: Aged 10, Lee was inspired to become a chef after watching a series of cookery programmes on TV. Having started as a kitchen porter, Lee went to college for a year and has worked full-time at the Williams Arms for 12 months. He aims to gain more qualifications so he can get as far as possible in his field.

Chef: Richard Nicholls, 20

Pub: Dartmoor Union Inn, Holbeton, Devon

Dish: Pan-seared, line-caught wild seabass with Champagne butter sauce

Menu price: £13.95

Cost of ingredients: £2.60

Why this dish? "Seabass is my favourite fish. The Champagne butter and chives in the sauce works well and complements the fish."

Background: When, aged 10, Richard witnessed a chef cutting potatoes against his thumb, he knew he wanted to learn how to do it. He worked under the guidance of the Tanner brothers in Plymouth for 18 months before moving to the Dartmoor Union Inn a year ago. His signature dish is duck and honey with five spices. Richard's dream is to gain a Michelin star and open his own restaurant.

Chef: Alan Bell, 20

Pub: Bricklayers Arms, Flaunden, Hertfordshire

Dish: Mille-feuille of duck medallion with apple and figs

Menu price: £14.45

Cost of ingredients: £3.75

Why this dish? "The combination of figs and apples goes really well with duck and the pumpkin gratin on the side really helps. I thought about what would work well and also about what was in season."

Background: Alan has worked at the Bricklayers Arms for a year-and-a-half and studied at college for two years to achieve his NVQ Level 2 qualification. He fell into cooking as his mother encouraged him to make a variety of meals at

home. Alan loves to work with fresh ingredients in the kitchen because it gives him the chance to prove himself.

Chef: Benjamin Keeley, 17

Pub: Rose & Crown, Snettisham, Norfolk

Dish: Roast fillet of organic beef, chargrilled puffball mushroom, tempura of Thornham oysters, roast shallot vinaigrette

Menu price: £15.50

Cost of ingredients: £4.45

Why this dish? "We use lots of local produce at the pub and I enjoy working with these ingredients. The beef is from a butchers in North Norfolk and the oysters from Thornham. Beef and oysters are a great combination."

Background: "I am currently doing A-levels and have worked at the Rose & Crown for two years at weekends. I enjoy the atmosphere of working in a pub and love the atmosphere in the kitchen. I would like to work on cruise ships and eventually have my own restaurant. I am also interested in

getting into the business side of the industry."

The Judges' verdict on the finalists

Richard Nicholls: "He's very competent in the kitchen. The dish was colourful and well presented. His techniques in

filleting and cooking were very good."

Lee Goodman: "This was a very good pub dish offering excellent value for money and it was great to see him using the leg of chicken - a more unusual option."

Ryan Dutson: "He demonstrated excellent attention to detail and is very focused."

Alan Bell: "He's a very tidy chef who also demonstrated

good knife skills. The dish was seasonally-led with the

duck served tender and the gratin a good side accompaniment."

Benjamin Keeley: "He demonstrated a wide variety of skills with good seasonal ingredients. The dish was exciting,

ambitious and well cooked."

The winner

Ryan Dutson of the White Hart in Lydgate, Lancashire, was named Young Pub Chef of 2006 by judges who were impressed with his control and organisation in the kitchen. The judges felt Ryan's dish was ambitious and he approached it with great confidence. Judge Ian McKerracher says:

"Ryan has very good technical skills and he showed excellent attention to detail in the kitchen."

Ryan's winning dish was roast Goosnargh duck breast with braised celery, mushroom, ravioli and thyme potato. Ryan's mentor is John Rudden, who recently won the Pub Category in the Craft Guild of Chef Awards 2005. Ryan's duck is supplied by Reg Johnson of Goosnagh.

The White Hart serves 1,200 covers a week with a wet:dry split of 50:50. Food sales account for 50% of turnover. Ryan believes good pub food should be about "relaxed, friendly dining". Dishes on the White Hart menu include baked curried spinach egg Florentine (£6.50), chicken-liver parfait with tomato jam and brioche (£5.95), pan-fried rib-eye of beef with fried potatoes and pepper sauce (£17) and pan-fried calves liver with mustard cabbage, cream potato and smoked bacon and crispy onions (£15.95).

Ryan believes he is an excellent pub chef because he says: "I'm somebody who cooks to a good consistent level and aim to please my customers."

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