South West Chef of the Year 2017

We are on the cusp of December. It seems like an age ago that some of the region’s culinary talent took over the kitchens at Exeter College’s @34 Restaurant to demonstrate their skills in front of the scrutiny of the judges including our regions very own chef superstar and Exeter College governor, Michael Caines MBE.


And it has been an age.  Bloggers are not like journalists, often a blog post has to brew and stew for a bit before it is ready for pouring.  Or writing.  There is pouring involved in all the best blog posts by the way 😉 so apologies for the time its taken to put pen to paper!

Dining Devon was invited along (I had asked as I wanted to cheer the home team being an employee of Exeter College which was represented in the competition).  This was a big honour given we were pretty much the only press there.  The kitchen was hot, the competition was fiery but the end result was some beautiful looking dishes.

I rocked up to @34 about 09:30, tea was served as the chefs nervously awaited their turn to start the competition.  Their start times allowed a staggered finish which meant the dishes were judged as they came out, the judging was done in secret somewhere else in the building away from the eyes of press and spectators.

So, like I did in the 2015 competition, I took my place in the kitchen as far away from the action as possible and started filming, snapping and observing.

The following is a photo-blog of the day.  All photos are copyright Dining Devon. Please contact me if you want to use them for promotional or personal use first.


The region’s freshest new gastronomic talent gathered yesterday for the grand final of the 2017 South West Chef of the Year. The competition, which aims to recognise and nurture talented chefs and cooks throughout the region, hosted its final at Exeter College followed by a glittering celebration at Exeter Golf & Country Club. Winners were announced during a lavish dinner devised and prepared by some of the region’s culinary crème de la crème.

South West Chef of the Year is the brainchild of Michelin-starred chef, Michael Caines MBE who launched the competition in 2004. Michael said: “I’m immensely proud of South West Chef of the Year and what it achieves. The competition started 14 years ago because I wanted to highlight the skill and commitment of chefs and cooks in this region and the diversity and quality of produce available in the South West – which are exceptional in my opinion. I was delighted to taste menus from new and upcoming chefs and home cooks as part of the competition and would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our winners, finalists, semi-finalists and competition entrants.”

Michael was joined by 12 of the region’s most celebrated and award-winning chefs, including Hywel Jones and Elly Wentworth of Lucknam Park, Christ Tanner of Barbican Kitchen, Matt Mason of the Jack in the Green and Stephane Deloume of The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow to judge the final rounds. The competition prides itself on providing a nurturing platform from which chefs can develop their careers, highlight their creativity and ability and learn new skills.

Finalists in the Professional, Young Professional and Student/Apprentice Chef categories were assessed yesterday at Exeter College whilst those through to the finals in the Home Cook category attended a final at Ashburton Cookery School on Saturday 14th October where they were joined by the Junior Chef finalists.

This year’s winning chefs:

Overall South West Chef of the Year

  • Robert Cox, Head Chef, Tudor Farmhouse Hotel and Restaurant, Clearwell, Gloucestershire

Professional category

Sponsored by Ritter Courivaud

  • Robert Cox, Head Chef, Tudor Farmhouse Hotel and Restaurant, Clearwell, Gloucestershire

Young Professional category

Sponsored by Lympstone Manor and Michael Caines MBE

  • Joshua Murphy, Demi Chef de Partie, Lucknam Park, Bath

Student/Apprentice Chef category

Sponsored by Nisbets

  • Eleanor Thuell, Exeter College and Rodean Restaurant, Kenton, Devon

Home Cook category

Sponsored by Ashburton Cookery School

  • Sue Stoneman, Exmouth, Devon

Junior Chef category

Following a junior final of the highest caliber, the judges awarded the title jointly to

  • Anna West, Penair School, Truro, Cornwall


  • Amber Clay, Alderman Knight School, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire

Best Showcase of Regional Ingredients

Sponsored by WBW Solicitors

  • Andrew Callaghan, Verwood, Dorset (Home Cook finalist)

Best Presentation

  • William Hamzij, Exeter College and Driftwood Hotel, Porscatho

For his main course dish of Ballotine of chicken, merguez, parsnip, mushroom

Best Menu

  • Robert Cox, Head Chef, Tudor Farmhouse Hotel and Restaurant, Clearwell, Gloucestershire

Best Dish

Sponsored by CaterPeople

  • Robert Cox, Head Chef, Tudor Farmhouse Hotel and Restaurant, Clearwell, Gloucestershire

For his starter of Cured Brill, scallop tartare, smoked bacon hollandaise, pickled shallots and puffed spelt.

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