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Worcestershire Chefs At UK Finals

Chef Tom Court receives his runner up certificate from Chef Ben Spalding

Worcestershire Chefs were out in force at this week’s final heat of the prestigious Visionary Chef of the Year competition held in Northampton, with a top County Chef representing the UK’s finest in the finals.

The culmination of a year’s competition, and nine heats, was held at the impressive new Northampton £83M College on Monday, which has an unrivalled catering focus and restaurant. Eight professional chefs battled it out, after watching inspiring London Chef Ben Spalding, previously Chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Hospital Road, and Head Chef Roganic in London’s Marylebone.

Three professional chefs from the Midlands were showcased in this hotly contested competition. In the morning the Chefs watched a master class held by Chef Ben Spalding, where they watched him create a three course menu, which featured his now World renowned ‘Chicken on brick’ dish – consisting of cooked chickens livers, cucumber puree, celery, topped with crisp slow roast chicken skin. He also created a starter of Mackerel cured in seawater with thinly sliced broccoli and meadowsweet honey, and a light dessert of peanut butter with cucumber juice and water mint oil.

The Chef competitors were then asked to replicate Ben’s creations, in their own style, but remaining true to the form of the original creations, focusing on depth of flavours, textures and presentation. From the UK finalists, three were from the Midlands. A young chef working in the kitchens of a Midlands country house hotel Hogarths, Chef Liam Davies, chef at the Bar 8 Brasserie at Hogarths Hotel near Dorridge, Solihull, which is soon to see the Brasserie open under Michelin Chef Martin Blunos. Also Steve Woods Head Chef at Bank Restaurant and Bar, Brindley Place, Birmingham. Also up and Coming Head Chef of the Granary Restaurant and Hotel in Shenstone, Worcestershire.

The delegates impressed judges including Chef Ben Spalding, founder of organisers and Midlands based food reviewer James Day of Gourmet-Lifestyle Food Group. Chef Ben commented “I have judged many of these competitions, but the level of this events delegates were very high, and the standards of the dishes were second to none, the judging was tough”. Each of the dishes were judged blind, with the judges not knowing who created which dishes “We have run this competition for two years now” commented founder Gordon Cartwright “but I must admit, this was the toughest heat we have judged, with the top three all achieving scores higher than the highest we have ever had”.

The winner was announced as Steve Woods Head Chef at Bank Restaurant and Bar, Brindley Place, Birmingham, who has won a place at the prestigious finals to be held at Northampton College on the 29th November, to compete alongside eight other finalists and their Chef mentors at what promises to be a specular culinary Final. Chef Steve was hotly contested by Worcestershire’s Tom Court, of the 2 AA Rosette Granary Restaurant and Hotel. Chef Tom is a keen fisherman, and is renowned for his fish dishes in the restaurant, personally selecting his fish from Birmingham market every week. He commented “I have never entered a competition, so was a little apprehensive. Chef Simon Rogan’s style of cooking is a real inspiration, and his fresh mackerel dish was a delight – the pressure was on, and I was honoured to be in the top Chefs. The organisers have invited me to be a judge at the finals, so at least I can enjoy the food created by the other chefs, and use my knowledge of fish to judge t final nine dishes. I will certainly be adding some of my leanings from Monday to the menus at the Granary Restaurant”

The final of Visionary Chef 2012 takes place on November 29th at Northampton College, and one of the headline judges is Worcestershire’s own Chef Adam Brown of 2 AA Rosette Brockencote Hall, who will be mentoring his heat winner on the night with each of the nine heat winners working together with their mentor chef to create one course at the grand final dinner. The public and esteemed guests on the night will become the judges of the winning dish and Chef team alongside this year’s crowing judge who will be celebrated Michelin Starred celebrity chef Mark Sergeant, protégé of Gordon Ramsay. Chef mentors and their students on the night will include, Michelin Starred Aiden Byrne – AA Restaurant of the Year, Paul Foster – 3 AA Rosettes, Mark Poynton – 1 Michelin Star, Matt Gillan – 1 Michelin Star, Adam Simmonds – 1 Michelin Star, Ben Spalding – Jon Salt, London; Adam Brown – 2 AA Rosettes Brockencote Hall, Worcestershire; Martin Wishart – 1 Michelin Star; Kenny Atkinson – 3 AA Rosettes.. The competition is inspired by in aid of Hospitality Action, the Hospitality Industry’s benevolent fund.

Mike Coppock, Director of Hospitality at Northampton College is not only relishing working with 9 world class chefs for a day, and tough judge Mark Sergeant, but agrees that serving a 9 course tasting menu which includes 1350 dishes over a six hour period is not without significant challenge. ‘’Allowing our students to work alongside industry greats gives us all a real buzz. Winning the tender to host this event is a great honour that sits alongside the ambitions that we as a college set ourselves.’

The winning chef on the night will be judged not only by the diners present, but also by a world class judging panel. (Details – below). Head of Judges Mark Sergeant, alongside Peter Birnie, Former Chief Restaurant Inspector at the AA who explains what his team will be looking for on the night. ‘’The winner on the night will demonstrate a natural visionary culinary philosophy that showcases clear natural vibrant flavours, flawless textures and high levels of intuitive skill. Ultimately, the winning dish will provide a WOW factor and be memorable.’

Managing Director of, Gordon Cartwright, is keen to point out the novelty of this competition. ‘Whilst this final provides an exciting climax to this year’s programme, the mentoring of unknown chefs throughout the year by celebrity chefs has been both inspirational and motivating. The sharing of skills means that standards up and down the country will benefit. To be Chief Judge at the Visionary Chef of the Year dinner we look for a chef with impeccable 3 Star credentials, a celebrated TV Career and an overview of international culinary standards second to none, and Mark Sergeant is just that man, we look forward to working with him”

For tickets the public can purchase a limited number, and become a judge on the night by visiting

The UK National Mentors
Aiden Byrne ~ 3 AA Rosettes ~ The Church Green, Lymm, Cheshire
Kenny Atkinson ~ 3 AA Rosettes ~ Rockliffe Hall, Darlington, County Durham
Matt Gillan ~ 1 Michelin Star ~ The Pass, South Lodge, Lower Beeding
Adam Simmonds ~ 1 Michelin Star ~ Danesfield House, Marlow
Martin Wishart ~ 1 Michelin Star ~ Restaurant Martin Wishart, Edinburgh
Mark Poynton ~ 3 AA Rosettes ~ Alimentum Restaurant, Cambridge
Ben Spalding ~ 3 AA Rosettes ~ Roganic. London
Paul Foster ~ 3 AA Rosettes Tuddenham Mill, Suffolk
Adam Brown ~ 2 AA Rosette (rising) Brockencote Hall, Worcestershire

4: The UK National Competitors
Andrew Postlethwaite, Best Western Castle Green Hotel, Kendal
Braden Charlesworth Head Chef , Flemmings, London
Martin Thliveros Head Chef Blythswood Sq, Glasgow
Ross McGibbon Sous Chef Gilpin Lodge, Windermere
Danny Mathews Jnr Sous Chef Blythswood Sq, Glasgow
Andrew Postlethwaite Chef de Partie Castle Green Hotel, Kendal
Liam Davies Chef de Partie Hogarth’s, Solihull
Graham Gardner Chef de Partie Blythswood Square, Glasgow
Steve Woods Head Chef at Bank Restaurant and Bar, Brindley Place, Birmingham

5: The Judges
Chief Judge Mark Sergeant Michelin Starred celebrity chef, protégé of Gordon Ramsay Peter Birnie. Former Chief Restaurant Inspector at the AA. Vicky Endersen Previous Michelin-star Pastry Chef. Now works as cutting edge development chef and flavour specialist at MSK. Paul Brown MD of Continental Chef Supplies, Alex Shannon Sales Director of Sous Vide Tools, Gordon Cartwright MD

Chicken on a brick dish - Chef Ben Spalding

Peanut Dessert - Chef Ben Spalding

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