September 15 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
The creme de la creme of Norfolk’s chefs battled it out for the prestgious title of EDP Norfolk Food and Drink 2014 Chef of the Year yesterday. STACIA BRIGGS watched the judging process and selflessly tried five incredible desserts
There were dozens of entries but just five made the final cut for the EDP Norfolk Chef of the Year cook-off at Norwich City College’s training kitchens.
Chefs from across the county took part in the annual competition for a chance of winning the title bagged last year by Mark Dixon, formerly of The Imperial Hotel in Great Yarmouth but who now runs his own pub and restaurant, the King’s Arms in Fleggburgh.
Mr Dixon – who was one of the five competing yesterday – said that winnng the competition last year had given him the final push to open his own venue and that everyone in the village was rooting for him (often with vegetables).
“I had someone banging down my door at 7am asking me if I wanted any of their runner beans!” he laughed, “people bring me all kinds of vegetables from their allotments – I think they’re more excited about me being in the competition than I am!”
Other chefs in the cook-off were Rob Tragarz, of The Lavender House in Brundall; Eric Snaith from Titchwell Manor; Jeremy Parke from Relish; and Danny Smith from The Ingham Swan.
Each chef was asked to produce a three-course menu that would be suitable to be scaled-up for a large-scale function. An allowance of £10 per diner was allowed and chefs were asked to give a brief reasoning behind the selection of their main ingredients and suppliers and to create a menu that reflected local produce and seasonal availability.
Ingredients used yesterday included lobster, samphire, blackberries, crab, chicken, quail, cockles, sea bass, pork and wild flowers, all from the county’s store cupboard.
This year, a new element was added to the judging process with a team of three expert judges – Charlie Hodson, Chris “Buzz” Busby and Joe Mulhall – blind-tasting each entry.
Mr Hodson, one of the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival’s food champions and an accomplished chef, said: “The standard has been impeccable – I would be happy for the vast majority of the dishes I have tried to come out of my own kitchen.”
Last year, Mr Busby, executive chef at Brasted’s, was creating the dishes for judges, this year he was a judge: “I have been looking forward to this – when you are in the competition you don’t have time to look around you and see what other chefs are doing. Blind-testing has been a learning curve for me – I have thoroughly enjoyed the process and some fantastic food.”
After an extremely close finish based on a huge range of criteria, ranging from taste to kitchen skills, a winner and two finalists were chosen.
Mr Thorpe said: “The finalists for this prestigious competition presented menu ideas that profile the abundance of produce available across Norfolk.
“The standard of cooking this year was very high with an exceptional amount of skill on show for the judging panel.
“The food presented reflected the dishes and menus that these highly-skilled chefs serve daily within their restaurants, which means we can be sure that the Chef of the Year competition will indicate some of the best places to eat across the county.”
His fellow judge, Alan George, hospitality lecturer at Norwich City College, said: “The suberb mise en place and kitchen skills demonstrated in the competition kitchen reflected the outstanding quality of local produce.”
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