The 2017 Finalists

Martin Carabott, Luca Restaurant, Clerkenwell, London

Michael Cruickshank, Bohemia, St Helier, Jersey

Scott Dineen, BaxterStorey, London

Oliver Downey, Fera at Claridge’s, Mayfair, London

Luke Selby, Dabbous, London

Matthew Whitfield, The Driftwood Hotel, Portscatho, Cornwall

They were chosen from two regional finals, which took place simultaneously on Thursday 23rd March 2017 at the University of West London and University College Birmingham.

Meet the finalists

Facts about the finalists:

  • Scott Dineen is in his fourth final, Martin Carabott is through for the second time in a row and Michael Cruickshank was in the regional final last year.
  • Matthew Whitfield made it to the regional finals in 2011 and 2012, he used to work at The Montagu Arms for Matthew Tomkinson, Roux Scholar (2005).
  • Oliver Downey, works for Dan Cox (2008 scholar) at Simon Rogan’s Fera at Claridge’s.

The challenge

This year the challenge was to create a recipe to serve four people using a whole fresh rainbow trout and 800g live mussels, accompanied by a sauce and two garnishes, one to include jasmine rice.

Contestants had 2½ hrs to cook their dish as originally submitted along with a dessert from a list of mystery ingredients given to them on the day.

The 2017 mystery box

The brief was to prepare a dessert for four people using the ingredients supplied. One ingredient could be omitted but at least 50% of the following ingredients had to be used:

100g caster sugar
100ml whole milk
4 medium eggs
200g plain flour
150g unsalted butter
15g fresh yeast
4 lemons
200ml double cream
220g strawberry jam ‘Francis Miot’ (60% strawberry/39% cane sugar)

The 2017 mystery box

Photos from the Birmingham Regional Final, 📷 Paul Thomas.

Photos from the London Regional Final, 📷 Jodi Hinds.

Quotes from the judges

Michel-Roux-Jr“”It was a great cook off today which bodes well for the final where knowledge of the classics will come into play.” Michel Roux Jr

Alain-RouxI could tell which chefs had practiced, it showed in the way they prepared the trout. A few lacked the skill to fillet and portion correctly without waste and the result was that some of the fish we tasted was unevenly cooked. The best got it spot on – moist and slightly pink, just what we were looking for!

The chefs used a wide variety of different ingredients and techniques, some were a bit too complex and although the dishes looked pretty they didn’t deliver on taste. More is not always good! The complexity of the main dish caused problems for some, leaving a lack of time to focus on their pudding.

“When comparing notes with my cousin we had to make some difficult choices but we’ve got six strong chefs in the final which will make for an exciting competition.” Alain Roux

What the Birmingham judges said

“It’s a great privilege to judge and see the stringent process from paper judging through to the final. We got two good finalists today. My recommendation for chefs coming back next year is to please practice, practice, practice and taste, taste, taste!” Sat Bains

Andre-Garrett“I’m interested to see who wins and what they do with this amazing opportunity. I would have liked to taste more flavour in the rice dishes today and in general more seasoning. Did they taste it?” André Garrett

“It was a fairly even competition this year and the top two stood out because of their respect for the products and the flavour of their dishes” Brian Turner

What the London judges said:

Andrew-Fairlie“Overall the standard was good. The chefs going through showed imaginative use of the trout and rice combination. The delicate texture of the rainbow trout caught out some of the other competitors.” Andrew Fairlie

Simon-Hulstone“Once more the desserts seemed to come second best to the savoury courses. I can’t reiterate enough that a good dessert can carry you through to the final” Simon Hulstone

“Those mystery box ingredients shone out for an enriched yeast dough dessert like a savarin, baba or doughnuts. It’s perfect for this situation, simple and easily done in the time. What would I have done? Probably a baked savarin with lemon syrup served with Chantilly cream – leaving out the jam”
 James Martin