Being a finalist is valuable too!

Former finalists Nathan Outlaw and Bryn Williams explain how being a finalist helped their careers

Entries opened on Tuesday 12th November 2019 for The Roux Scholarship 2020 and young chefs all over the country are beginning to create their recipes for hake, clams and leeks in order to submit their entry.

More than a decade ago, top chefs Nathan Outlaw and Bryn Williams were in their shoes. Both chefs progressed to the finals in the early and mid-2000s and ­– despite not winning – found that being part of The Roux Scholarship has been of great benefit to their careers.

Nathan Outlaw 2_pls creditChris Hewitt Photography

“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.” Nathan Outlaw

Nathan Outlaw, whose Port Isaac restaurant held two Michelin stars before it closed in July 2020, 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 were 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 it is to the chef’s establishment as well as 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.”