Two chefs from Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa have made it through to the National Chef of Wales contest final in the new year after closely contested semi-finals.
Benjamin Taylor, 34, head chef and Thomas Westerland, 24, chef de partie, from Lucknam Park will be joined in the final by Jack Davison, 23, sous chef from Deganwy Quay Hotel and Spa and Nathan Davies, 25, head chef at the Belle Vue Royal Hotel, Aberystwyth.
They clinched the four final places after the semi-finals hosted by NPTC Group’s Newtown campus on Monday. For the first time, the contest has been thrown open to Wales born chefs who are now working outside the country. Previously, the contest was restricted to chefs living, working or studying in Wales.
The competition is organised by the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) and main sponsor is Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government’s department representing the food and drink industry.
Apart from the kudos of being named best in Wales, the winner of the nation’s premier culinary contest for senior chefs will automatically go through to the UK semi-finals of the National Chef of the Year contest.
The final will be held on the last day of the 2016 Welsh International Culinary Championships at Coleg Llandrillo, Rhos-on-Sea, Colwyn Bay on the afternoon of Thursday, February 18. The finalists will be given three hours to cook a three course meal.
Taylor said it was his first competition and he was not expecting to qualify for the final. “I know I can cook but didn’t know what it would be like competing in a stressful environment. It was nice to put up dishes that I was pleased with on the whole.
“I’m really pleased that Tom has also got through and we’re looking forward to the final. All the chefs in the kitchen made it a fun competition.”
Westerland was “ecstatic” to have qualified for the final, especially as he failed to reach the final of the Junior Chef of Wales three years ago. “It’s nice to see that what I have learnt in the past three years has done my career some good,” he added.
Both chefs praised the support of their commis chef, Ed Marsh, who did the running around for Westerland in the morning and Taylor in the afternoon.
The judges were chairman John Retallick, CAW secretary, Colin Gray, chef patron of Capital Cuisine and CAW vice president, Michael Bates, executive chef at the Celtic Manor, Newport, Shaun Bailey, senior chef lecturer at NPTC Newtown campus, Eric Bruce, chef patron at Restaurant Severn, Ironbridge and Chris Bason, Cambrian Training Company’s head of hospitality.
The judges praised the high standard of the competition and congratulated the chefs for producing some “stunning” individual dishes.
Westerland’s dish of Madgetts Farm chicken with chicken wing kiev, chicken faggot, cèpes mushrooms and amazing turnip and leeks from Lucknam Parks’ kitchen garden is now being served in the Park Restaurant.