Entrants battled it out at the semi-finals of South West Chef of the Year on Saturday 8th October hosted by Exeter College. The region’s prestigious culinary competition, now in its 13th year, was co-founded and is co-judged by Michael Caines MBE and aims to nurture the next generation of top chefs. The nail-biting semi-finals on the weekend gave entrants in the Professional, Young Professional and Student/Apprentice classes the chance to impress nine top chefs from the region as well as the opportunity to go through to the grand final to be held on Monday 24th October.
Of the standard demonstrated over the course of the semi-final, Michael Caines said: “All the entrants put in a huge amount of hard work with rigorous standards shown throughout the preparation stage and in the cooking and presentation of dishes. The judging team was delighted to see cooking of such high calibre.”
For the first time, judges were unable to split the semi-finalists in the Professional category and have selected five for the final, instead of the usual four. The finalists are Martin Blake, Senior Sous Chef at Manor House Hotel; Shaun Cassidy, Sous Chef at Jack in the Green; Jamie Coleman, Head Chef at Saunton Sands Hotel; Joseph Fallowfield, Sous Chef at The Square and Magic Kijewski, Head Chef at Molecular Magic.
Finalists in the Young Professional category are: Timothy Kendall, Chef de Partie at The Seafood Restaurant; Joshua Martin, Junior Sous Chef at Deer Park Country House Hotel; Lily O’Donoghue, Commis Chef at Mount Somerset Hotel and Jade Stephens, Chef de Partie at Lucknam Park.
Finalists in the Student/Apprentice category are: Harrison Brockington of Exeter College and Apprentice Chef at Dart Marina Hotel; Maia English, Apprentice Chef at The Elephant Restaurant; Sophie Kennard of Somerset College and Apprentice Chef at The Swan Inn and Lauren King, Apprentice Chef at The Horn of Plenty.
The competition aims to provide entrants with the opportunity to learn and progress thanks to the feedback and mentoring they receive. Maia English, finalist in the Student/Apprentice Chef category is a previous winner of the Junior category in 2013 when she was still at school. Maia was mentored by one of the competition’s judges and since winning in 2013, has gone on to become an apprentice chef, firstly at Gidleigh Park while studying part-time at Exeter College and now at The Elephant Restaurant in Torquay.
Competitors frequently work their way up through the various categories of the competition and several of the entrants have reached the final before including: Jamie Coleman, Magic Kijewski and Joshua Martin.
This year’s competition was judged by Paul Ainsworth of Paul Ainsworth at Number 6; Stephane Delourme of The Seafood Restaurant; Consultant Chef Peter Gorton; Neil Haydock of Watergate Bay Hotel; Matt Mason of Jack in the Green; Amanda Metcalfe of Exeter College, Seth Ward of Bidvest Foodservice, Michael Wignall of Gidleigh Park and head judge Michael Caines.
The next stage of the competition will take place on Saturday 15th October with those in the Home Cook and Junior Classes battling it out in their final at Ashburton Cookery School in Devon.
A grand final for the two professional classes and the student chef class will take place on Monday 24th October at Exeter College. This will be followed by a sumptuous awards ceremony and dinner in the evening hosted by sponsor, Exeter Golf & Country Club.
The awards dinner will be hosted by Michael Caines and his team of judges and comprises a culinary feast with courses prepared by three top chefs from the region. The chefs selected to cook at this year’s awards dinner are judge Hywel Jones, a Michelin-starred Executive Chef at Lucknam Park, Bath; Jamie Rogers, a previous winner of South West Chef of the Year (2015) and Head Chef at Belgrave Sands Hotel, Torquay and Scott Paton, also a previous winner of South West Young Professional Chef of the Year (2009) and Head Chef at Boringdon Hall Hotel, Plymouth. Hywel, Jamie and Scott will be supported in the kitchen and front of house by students of the Michael Caines Academy.
Members of the public can buy tickets to the South West Chef of the Year Annual Awards Dinner, priced at £80 per person and enjoy sumptuous food and drink throughout the evening. A further information and ticket reservation email address has been set up: firstname.lastname@example.org.