Run by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group, in partnership with Nestlé Professional, the event had more than 80 selected attendees from the education, media and pub industry including celebrity chef and judge Paul Merrett and was held at the House of Commons earlier this week (7 February).
More than 130 nominations were received from MPs across the country who selected a pub chef from within their constituency for the awards.
The fierce competition included a cook-off in January where each of the four finalists had the opportunity to demonstrate their creativity and flair in presenting a dish to the select panel of judges before an interview with the judges.
First up at the awards was Young Pub Chef winner Amy Houghton who was nominated by Craig Whittaker (MP for Calder Valley) for her passion and skill at the Shoulder of Mutton, in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.
Maclean from the Rat followed and was nominated by Guy Opperman (MP for Hexham) for his chef skills at the pub.
Both awards were presented by chair of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group Mike Wood who said: “It was great to see even more MPs engaging with their local pubs and nominating some fantastic chefs for this year’s competition.
“The level of ability shown throughout the contest has been hugely impressive. Amy and Kevin can be tremendously proud of their achievement.”
Maclean said the award was an honour and thanked Opperman for nominating him. He added: “Hopefully the profile of this competition will keep rising and rising and bring more chefs into the industry, which in turn will raise awareness of the great British pub and all the good food and great work all these people across the country are doing.
“It is a great experience to be at the House of Commons and part of such a huge event; winning really topped it off.”
Rat Inn owner Karen Errington lauded her chef’s win and outlined the dish he cooked during the competition.
Over the moon
She said: “We are over the moon that Kevin has won Parliamentary Pub Chef of the Year. There were more than 130 chefs put forward to the competition, all nominated by their local MPs, with Kevin among the final four competing in a cook off at parliament last week.
“The chefs were given one hour to select ingredients and cook a main course for the judges, with marks being awarded for technical skills, presentation and, of course, taste.
“Maclean cooked a dish in keeping with our ‘pub’ ethos. We are proud to be very much a pub, a place where you can pop in for a pint or a snack, but also have a full-blown meal without blowing the budget and without compromising on hospitality.
“We are led by what is available on our doorstep from local farmers and gamekeepers, so we are accustomed to adapting and creating a menu, which changes often, sometimes daily.
“This award helps to bring Northumberland in general as a top food-tourism destination to a wider audience. There are many great pubs and restaurants in the region serving fantastic food.
“Huge thanks to Guy Opperman, our MP, for the nomination, who is very active in promoting local businesses up here.
“As a small independent pub with no marketing budget these sort of accolades are so very important to us and we do not take them for granted for one minute.
“With this award, along with maintaining our entry in the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs Awards only last week, we couldn’t have hoped for a better start to 2018.
“Maclean’s award-winning dish will be on the menu at the pub over the next few weeks.”
Young Pub Chef winner Amy Houghton said: “I am in shock, I really am. I was happy with my dish, but I did not think for a minute that I had won.
“I am my own biggest critic and it was a tough competition, the standard was really high. I chose to do venison for the cook off because I love it. It is probably one of my favourite meats."
Amazing and surreal
She added: “The town I live in is really small, so I went for things that I knew I could source locally, that would complement the dish well.
“Everyone was really routing for me back in the pub, they were actually live streaming the awards ceremony in front of customers so they saw that I had won at the same time I found out.
“Winning has given me more confidence in myself and I would really like to thank my MP, Craig Whittaker, for nominating me.
“Coming to the House of Commons has been amazing, but so surreal. I feel as if I am dreaming. I will have to open the box and look at the award to remember that this really did happen.”
BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds congratulated the winners and spoke about the high standard in the competition.
She said: “The standard of cooking on display in this year’s competition really was outstanding. All of the finalists should feel proud of what they have achieved.
“Particular congratulations must go, of course, to the winners, who displayed such flair and passion for their food.
“Pubs are increasingly home to some of the best British chefs, which is very exciting for the future of our sector.”
Nestlé Professional UK savoury foods manager Charlotte Ponti added: “This year’s standards have been really impressive. Not only were the participants creative and technically excellent, but they also demonstrated strong work ethic and drive.
“It is exciting to see that there are such great talents in pubs and promising a bright future. All the participants can be really proud of what they achieved and we wish them lots of success.”