The Roux family is delighted to announce the names of the six chefs who will compete for the title of Roux Scholar 2018.

Martin Carabott, age 28, Ground, Hide, London

Ben Champkin, age 25, L’Enclume, Cumbria

Oliver Marlow, age 27, Roganic, London

Sam Nash, age 25, L’Enclume, Cumbria

Ryan Porter, age 24, Northcote, Lancashire

Fergus Wilford, age 25, Cliveden House, Berkshire

In a tough day of cooking at their respective regional finals in London and Birmingham, six talented chefs will go through to compete in the final on 26th March. Having cooked their recipes that were first submitted for the competition, using gilthead seabream, globe artichokes and molluscs (shellfish) of their choice, the 18 finalists submitted their dishes to the judges for tasting.

Chairman Michel Roux Jr said: “The dishes were a very high standard, with no major mistakes, thankfully. It was a pleasure to taste recipes that were selected. There was some beautiful, very precise presentation.” Fellow chairman Alain Roux was particularly impressed by some of the finalists’ dishes. What stood out with the chefs going through was they are not only the ones that can cook, but can season. They must have tasted their food as they were preparing it, to create a well-balanced dish.”

While the main dish was undoubtedly tough, those who had practised shone through. Andrew Fairlie, head scholar, said: “This competition never ceases to amaze me; just when you think the standard can’t get any higher, the next year there is again some fantastic cooking. The judging process seems to get longer each year, which is a testament that we are encouraging young chefs to cook to the standard we are expecting.”

London Regional Final

The dessert challenge this year was particularly tough, with a selection of ingredients that included coconut puree, maple syrup, silver gelatine, a baby pineapple and brown rice, that was presented to them on the day. They then had half an hour to write a recipe and then cook it alongside the main dish. Judge Simon Hulstone, who was judging in Birmingham said: “For me, the two guys who went through [in Birmingham] have listened, learned, and thought about their dessert. It’s a major part – 30 per cent of the marks. We say it every year that the dessert can win it for you because you can practise your main course, but you can’t practise your dessert. And one ingredient in there has thrown everyone a bit sideways.” The finalists were allowed to leave one of the ingredients out, and those who won, did as Alain Roux would have – removed the brown rice. “For the dessert, many of them used the rice, but the two best desserts were without rice. That’s what I would have done.”

One of them was Sam Nash who said: “The rice threw me straight away. When you see rice, you think rice pudding straight away but it was a brown rice, you can’t really do a pudding with that. It took me about 20 minutes to realise I shouldn’t go for rice pudding. I then just took a deep breath and picked a panna cotta. I had practised a panna cotta beforehand too.”

Also in Birmingham, Ryan Porter had to overcome a mistake during the cooking. “I accidentally put my fish in the freezer – I thought it was a fridge – so I thought that would have lost it for me, but I put it on a warm plate and got it working.”

Although the competition was tough, there was much camaraderie in the kitchen, with regional finalist Aaron Lawrence bringing a bowl of purple sprouting broccoli for fellow regional finalist Danny Parker after the snow had affected his supplier’s delivery. Danny had put out an appeal on social media to source some, and many in the chef community had contacted him. Meanwhile in London, Fergus Wilford had had to source razor clams from elsewhere, after the recent weather conditions had also affected his supplier.

In London, three new judges Angela Hartnett, Clare Smyth and Rachel Humphrey were impressed by the standard of cooking. Clare said: “There are some very strong dishes, the dessert was a difficult one, some were simple and clean, and it was completely blind so it was difficult, the trick is to keep it simple, and some got that, while others over complicated things.”

Birmingham Regional Finals

What happens next?

The six finalists will compete for the title of Roux Scholar 2018 in the final, which takes place at Westminster Kingsway College, London on Monday 26th March. This time the recipe details are a complete surprise; 30 minutes before the start of the competition the finalists will be given the recipe and ingredients for a main dish, either classic or modern and given three hours to prepare and present it to the judges.

Legendary chef Michel Guérard will join the panel of judges as Honorary President, alongside joint chairmen Alain and Michel Jr. They will be joined by Brian Turner, James Martin, head scholar Andrew Fairlie as well as previous winners Simon Hulstone (2003 scholar), Sat Bains (1999 scholar) and André Garrett (2002 scholar) and three new judges, Angela Hartnett, Clare Smyth and Rachel Humphrey. The 2018 Roux Scholar will be announced at a prestigious award ceremony at The Langham, London, that same evening.

Quick facts about the finalists:

  • This is the third time Martin Carabott is through to the national final; and second time Ben Champkin has been in the national final.
  • Fergus Wilford works for André Garrett at Cliveden House, Berkshire. He was also in the 2017 regional finals.
  • Martin Carabott has previously won British Culinary Federation Chef of the Year (2016) and was a finalist in the Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year (2017).
  • Three finalists – Ben Champkin, Sam Nash and Oliver Marlow – work for Simon Rogan.

Regional Prizes

Each competitor received the following gifts from our sponsors, as well as a commemorative certificate signed by all the judges:

  • A Kazoku set of three Global Knives.
  • A cafetière pot with coffee, courtesy of L’Unico Caffé Musetti.
  • A TRUEfoods notebook and tasting spoon.
  • A bottle of The Balvenie Doublewood Aged 12 Years and a bottle of The Balvenie Caribbean Cask Aged 14 Years.