Reflections on the South West Chef of the Year 2018

One of the highlights this year has been witnessing the grand finals of the South West Chef of the Year. Finally (after a few hiccups with life, photographs and WordPresses new editor) I have some of the shots from the day.

I’ve had the privilege of watching the finals for the last couple of years, and they’ve been an absolute thrill-ride. Some of the top chef talent from across the South West battle it out for this coveted title. But it isn’t just professionals and young professionals as shown in the photos below, on the day I was also present to watch the Student/Apprentice chefs – and let us not forget the Junior and Homecook categories too.

I’ve watched three so far, and each time the pace and tension in that kitchen is something palpable and dramatic. This year was going to be a special year as it was the 15th Anniversary. Fact: the first winner was Adam Gerrish who is now at The Carlyon Bay Hotel in St Austell.

The competition takes place at Exeter College, within the magnificent teaching kitchens that serve the Michael Caines academy and the @34 Restaurant within the magnificent teaching kitchens that serve the Michael Caines academy and the @34 Restaurant

South West Chef of the Year was started in 2004 by Michael Caines MBE, as a way of showing off the great local talent that the South West had. The various classes (Professional, Young Professional, Junior, Student/Apprentice Chef and Home Cook) showcase the talent of entrants across a wide spectrum which makes it accessible to everyone. Our (I’m proud to be able to say ‘our’) very own Sue Stoneman was Home Cook winner two years running from 2016/17.

The competition also shows off some of the amazing local ingredients that the South West produces. The ingredients are a key part of the competition as they are unknown to the chefs (apart from the protein) before the day starts. This year, for the professionals, the protein was Rib of beef, Pollack and Palourde Clams/Mussels.

The competition is intense. Not just for participants but for those watching. As the chefs stood in @34 for the morning briefing, there was a mixture of nerves and confidence in the air. Cooking in a competition is quite different from kitchen cooking (so I’m told) and there is much more to balance. Where chefs might be part of a team cooking, competitors would need to produce a starter, main and dessert within a fixed time frame.

The chefs have a little bit of time to come up with a menu with the ingredients provided, and then the work begins.

For an observer, there are safe zones in the kitchen. The expansive sea of stainless steel in the kitchens at @34 Restaurant are the perfect place for a competition. Photography is always tricky due to the strange lighting of the kitchen!

The competitors finishing time is staggered, so they can be assessed. Despite the time-frame, the food that comes out looks fantastic.

Congratulations to Tim Kendall, Sous Chef, The Idle Rocks, St Mawes who took the title of overall South West Professional Chef of the Year

All the results are available at

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