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Chef who worked in Sydney and San Francisco vies for national prize

PUBLISHED: 11:12 12 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:12 12 March 2020

Oli Williamson went to City College Norwich but now works at The Greenhouse restaurant in London. Picture: Oli Williamson

Oli Williamson went to City College Norwich but now works at The Greenhouse restaurant in London. Picture: Oli Williamson

Archant

A chef who grew up and trained in Norfolk and has already had a “whirlwind” career is in the running for a national prize.

Oli Williamson has got through to the semi-finals of a competition to find Britain's best young chef. Picture: Oli WilliamsonOli Williamson has got through to the semi-finals of a competition to find Britain's best young chef. Picture: Oli Williamson

Oli Williamson, from Holt, is one of 18 chefs to reach the semi-finals of The Roux Scholarship which is run by Michel Roux Jr and Alain Roux.

As part of the process the 29-year-old had to create a dish based around cockles, hales and leeks - to which he added a seaweed tuile - although he said his go-to dinner party dish was a roast dinner with all the trimmings.

If he makes the finals, the former Fakenham High School student will have to dish up a classic French meal and he said he was nervous but excited about the prospect.

Mr Williamson, who has worked in top restaurants in Sydney and San Francisco, set his sights on cooking at the age of 14 but said the first dish he made, a risotto, was 'absolutely hideous'.

He started his career as a teenage kitchen porter but soon made the jump to the Michelin-starred restaurant The Neptune in Hunstanton, while studying at City College Norwich for one day a week.

Mr Williamson said: 'It has been a whirlwind, but I've been lucky and followed the advice of the top chefs I worked with. Even my decision to go to Australia for a year was spur of the moment. I was watching Australian MasterChef with the chef at the Neptune and he suggested I go there and try it out. So I did.'

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Back in England, he worked as a sous chef at Roger Hickman's restaurant in Norwich for a few years before accepting a job at Midsummer House in Cambridge, where he said he grew as a chef.

After a year-long stint at Benu in San Francisco, which serves Korean and American fusion food, he worked in London, which cemented his desire to 'not be boxed in as a chef and to have freedom in cooking'.

Six months ago he took as job as a pastry chef at The Greenhouse, a two Michelin star restaurant in London, despite not having much experience.

Mr Williamson said: 'I really want to round myself off as chef and to continue learning and developing in areas I haven't worked in before. I'm hoping that will help teach me to manage a kitchen in the future.'


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