The finalists were split into under and over-25 groups and were tasked with preparing a range of dishes for a panel of industry experts.
Over-25 contestants had to devise a three-course meal incorporating Cornish Orchard cured and smoked sea trout, saddle (including offal) of spring lamb and rhubarb. Under-25s had to create only a main and a dessert.
Paul Merrett said: “It’s really good to see firstly the level of training that’s going into the chefs in Fuller’s but also what they’re producing the other end because of that training.”
Given the current chef shortage, it was vital that pubs and pub companies kept their chefs enthusiastic, challenged and engaged, he said.
“It’s vital because of staff retention. You can pay chefs a fortune but that really isn’t a business option, not for a pub. So you have to engage with their career and what they’re learning.
Over and above
“I think if you can give them extra, over and above what they do day in and day out – so competitions, stages and that sort of thing – then you will create much more loyal chefs.”
Judging the chefs’ efforts were Pierre Koffman, chef patron of Koffman’s in Mayfair and former owner of three Michelin-starred restaurant La Tante Claire, London, celebrity chef and owner of three London pubs Paul Merrett and representative from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and the Publican's Morning Advertiser (PMA).
Paul Dickinson, head of food at Fuller’s, previously told the PMA: “I am very impressed by the passion and work each of the finalists has done on their entries. We now have a very serious competition.”
The winners will be announced at the company's managers' conference on 10 May. They will receive a six-day trip to Dubai to work in the kitchen of Jason Atherton's restaurant Marine Social with chef patron Tristan Farmer.
Fuller’s was last month named as Best Pub Employer (51+ sites) at the 25th anniversary Publican Awards.