Former finalists Nathan Outlaw and Bryn Williams on how The Roux Scholarship helped their careers.
Winning The Roux Scholarship is truly a life-changing experience, but being part of this prestigious competition as a finalist can also have career-boosting benefits. Among those who have taken part are top chefs Nathan Outlaw and Bryn Williams who both progressed to the finals in the early and mid-2000s and, despite not winning, found that being part of The Roux Scholarship helped their careers.
Nathan Outlaw, whose Port Isaac restaurant holds two Michelin stars, took part in the competition three times in the early 2000s and still values the experience. He said: “It helped me because it took me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to do more. It’s easy to sit back and not challenge yourself when you cook in the same kitchen every day.”
The contacts he made have also been of benefit to Chef Outlaw’s career: “Being a finalist gave me a wonderful experience at the age of 22 and 23 that I still cherish today. The people I met have helped me in various ways throughout my career. Also, the Roux Scholarship has a kudos that really opens doors for a young chef. For someone serious about their craft, it’s worth every minute!”
Bryn Williams got through to the finals in 2005, having also applied the year before, he said: “What I really enjoyed was being in the mix in one of the best competitions in Europe and cooking against your peers, and being judged by these fantastic chefs. I enjoyed the professionalism of the competition too. It’s a serious competition and you need to be your very best to go through the stages to the final.”
Now that it is several years since he competed, Chef Williams, who is chef-proprietor at Odette’s in Primrose Hill, and has restaurants at Somerset House and Porth Eirias in Colwyn Bay, still feels the benefit. “Even now, 10, 12, 14 years later, people say ‘Oh you did the Roux Scholarship’. People know you did it, and you’re on their radar, and that never goes away. Being associated with The Roux Scholarship is the biggest pat on the back you could get.”
Roux Scholarship judge Simon Hulstone took part in the finals twice before he eventually won it in 2003 and knows how valuable the experience is to the chef’s establishment as well as for the chef themselves: “Competing in the finals is not only a challenge to the competitors it’s a chance to showcase what you have learnt from your mentors over the years of training. So not only is it the chef but the establishment that is being tested and highlighted.”
Chef Hulstone also acknowledges that for many chefs, like himself, it takes a few years to finally scoop the top prize. “Everyone who has competed in the Scholarship has benefitted not only from prizes and PR but they have gained a sense of maturity and knowing where they stand as a chef. Most chefs who don’t win would acknowledge they weren’t at the standard that the winner was at for that year, and so they compete again and again giving themselves the advantage of other chefs who are first timers.”
Entries are now open for the 2020 competition. Click here for information on how to enter