Who will compete in the regional finals 2020/21?
The Regional Finals will see 19 chefs cook their recipes for hake, clams and leeks on 4th March 2021. They will battle it out for six places at the National Final, after the 2020 competition was postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The first reserve Connor Wilson (The Traddock North Yorkshire) will compete as the 19th regional finalist, as he stepped in when one finalist was unable to compete on the original 2020 dates due to lockdown restrictions and it was unfair to ask him to resume his place as a reserve. When selecting the finalists, Chairmen Alain Roux and Michel Roux Jr were delighted to see such a high level of talent among the applications. The successful chefs come from a wide range of establishments such as luxury hotels, contract catering, successful local restaurants, and even the House of Commons, and geographically as far afield as Jersey and County Durham.
Eight of the 19 chefs have competed before: Ryan Baker from Corinthia Hotel, Scott Braithwaite from L’Enclume, Olivia Burt from Claridge’s, Michael Cruickshank from Bohemia, Benjamin Champkin and Oliver Marlow both from Roganic, Oliver Dovey from BaxterStorey, Curtis Tonge from Northcote.
The 19 chefs were selected from their paper applications and written recipes submitted anonymously to the judges, who took part in the Paper Judging day at The Waterside Inn. The 19 finalists will compete in two regional finals which will be held simultaneously on 4th March 2021 at University College Birmingham and University of West London, Ealing.
The chefs competing in Birmingham
Scott Braithwaite, L’Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria
Jonathan Ferguson, The Raby Hunt Restaurant, Co. Durham
Oliver Marlow, Roganic, London
Curtis Tonge, Northcote, Lancashire
Jac Webster, The Angel at Hetton, Yorkshire
Joshua Fulcher, Restaurant 22, Cambridge
The chefs competing in London
Benjamin Champkin, Roganic, London
Caer Timberlake, Restaurant 22, Cambridge
Ryan Baker, Maison Francois, London
Julian Elkjaer, Whatley Manor, Wiltshire
Oli Williamson, The Greenhouse, London
Conor Bird, House of Commons, London
Christos Sidiropoulos, The Ritz, London
Stephen McClarty, Restaurant Associates, London
Tobias Smith, The Leathersellers Company, London
Olivia Catherine Burt, Claridge’s, London
Connor Wilson, The Traddock, North Yorkshire
Oliver Dovey, BaxterStorey Fine Dining, London
Michael Cruickshank, Bohemia, Jersey
Their challenge is to cook the recipe they submitted with their application, which uses one whole fresh gutted hake, weighing anywhere between 1.6kg – 1.8kg and 600g of live whole grooved carpet shell / palourde clams (ruditapes decussatus). They have to be plated together with two simple or composed garnishes/accompaniments. One of these must include leeks and the other was a garnish/accompaniment of the applicant’s choice. One of these can be served separately if preferred and a sauce has to accompany the dish. The regional finalists will have 2½ hrs to cook their dish, along with a dessert from a mystery box of ingredients given to them on the day. The judges will be looking for recipes and methods, which demonstrate the best balance of creativity, taste, style and practicality in the finished dish.
Chairman Michel Roux Jr said: “Hake is versatile, sustainable and it ticks all the boxes; you can really cook some interesting dishes with it. Also, clams, hake and leek are a great, classic combination, and you can see how the finalists have used those classic combinations and have brought in something interesting or different, such as a bit of spice, to make their recipes stand out. The ones that got through are really the ones I want to taste.”
Co-Chairman Alain Roux said: “Hake is a fish that a lot of chefs use in their restaurant, so we chose it because they weren’t going to be scared of cooking with it. If you look at price and quality you can do an excellent fish dish with it, and it’s also sustainable.”
There is one chef in reserve (should any finalists not be able to compete):
Nathan Cornwell, The Barn at Moor Hall, Lancashire
- Simon Rogan once again proves his excellence as a mentor with three of his chefs qualifying for the regional finals: Benjamin Champkin and Oliver Marlow both from Roganic, Scott Braithwaite from L’Enclume.
- Michael Cruickshank has the most experience competing in the Roux Scholarship, having reached the regional finals in 2016 and 2018, and the national final in 2017 and 2019.
- Eight finalists come from establishments outside London, ranging from as far south as Jersey to County Durham in the north.
- The range of establishments is also well-represented, with chefs coming from luxury hotels, contract catering, successful local restaurants and even the House of Commons.
- The paper applications are judged blind, so judges don’t know their identity or their place of work.
- The number of entries increased by 18 per cent from the 2019 competition and judges felt they were of a higher standard.
- The judges felt that some of the applicants’ costings were inaccurate and that they should have shown closer attention to how much certain ingredients really cost.
- The judges were also looking at cooking timings of the dishes and whether the chefs had allowed time to prepare the mystery box dessert in the regional finals.