Meet the National Finalists 2022
After the exciting regional finals in London and Birmingham, the Roux family is delighted to announce the names of the six chefs who will compete for the title of Roux Scholar 2022 on 11th April 2022.
Just six months since the 2021 final, the Roux Scholarship resumed its usual spring schedule with the 2022 regional finals taking place at University College Birmingham and University of West London. With a mystery box that pecan nuts, lemons, golden syrup, whole milk and double cream for the dessert challenge, the 18 regional finalists also cooked their recipes for Dover sole, brown shrimps and two garnishes including handmade pasta. Six chefs were successful enough to claim a place in the national final.
National Finalists 2022
Kieran Bradley: “I couldn’t believe it when it was announced I had got through to the National Final, like it was the last thing I was expecting. I definitely didn’t produce what I had practiced, but obviously I was really happy with the result. To win the Roux Scholarship and be part of what the Roux Scholarship is, would just be a fantastic step in my career.”
Jonnie Ferguson: “It’s a massive relief to be through to the final again. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get past this stage again and it feels good. I’m 25 now, and it’s the second time I’ve got through to the Final, and something I am quite proud of and am massively excited to be involved again. It was an amazing experience last time; it’s been something of a goal this year to be in the mix again and hopefully going one stage further this time.”
Ruth Hansom: “It was a bit of a crazy day, obviously you don’t know what the dessert is going to be, and I went through lots of different ideas given that we didn’t have sugar, but I’m really with what I did and happy to get through. I was a bit nervous before, but I like the butterflies that come with that. For the final, I’ll just keep practicing classic things, and preparing for different scenarios.”
Yiannis Mexis: “I’m really happy about getting through and confident going through to the final and it’s reassuring after the lockdown, when we all started to doubt ourselves and I wondered if I was good enough, it was reassuring to do well.”
Christos Sidiropoulos: “It was a very tough competition but, if you do a lot of practice beforehand, you can be more sure of yourself and that’s what I did. You never know what the dessert ingredients will be, so that’s surprise, but it was helpful to have competed before to know the environment and the kitchen.”
George Whitelock: “I wasn’t very happy with what I served, so I thought there was no chance I’d get through. I was running out of time, so I rushed the plating and finishing and I thought they’d find a lot of flaws with it. I’d practiced it so many times and had it perfect in my mind, but it wasn’t exactly that. I’m ecstatic about getting through the final. I need to get my head down and start preparing for that. I’m over the moon.”
The challenge was to cook the recipe they submitted with their application which was blind-judged on 1st March by our judging panel.
At the regional finals at University College Birmingham and the University of West London, the 18 regional finalists cooked their recipes that included: two fresh Dover soles weighing anywhere between 600g-700g (maximum 800g) cooked and served either whole, or in fillets and 300g whole brown shrimps with shells on; together plated with two ‘simple’ or ‘composed’ garnishes/accompaniments. One of them had to include homemade pasta made on the day of the competition. The other had to be a garnish/accompaniment of their choice. One of these could be served separately if preferred. A sauce had to accompany the dish.
The Mystery Box Dessert challenge
The task was to create a dessert for four people. The chefs were allowed to omit one ingredient, but had to use at least 50% of the remaining ingredients.
200g plain flour
125g unsalted butter
200ml double cream
150g pecan nuts
10g cream of tartar
200ml whole milk
10g bicarbonate of soda
4 medium eggs
200g golden syrup
Judging at the University of West London, Michel Roux Jr: “It’s always a pleasure to see what the next generation of chefs can cook up for us. We had a great day tasting perfectly cooked sole and imaginative pasta as the garnishes.”
Judging in at University College Birmingham, Alain Roux said: “When judging today, we are hoping to see that they have really followed their recipe and if the recipe works. I am looking for a chef that can show their skills, one who has got not only a good palate, but has vision as a chef, meaning, they are a team player, is organised, and can cope with pressure. They must know their basics, the classics, and has their own flair and show their personal skills.”
Judging in London, Clare Smyth said: “It was a really tough regional final and there were really great ingredients to cook with. I found that those who got through to the final are all of a similar level of skill and talent and the eventual winner is going to have to put a lot of work in to come through, because it isn’t going to be easy.”
Judging in at University College Birmingham, Simon Hulstone: “The dessert for me is about doing something as simple as possible but executing it ‘spot on’. With today’s ingredients, I would immediately go with a syrup sponge pudding, confit lemon with a nice nutty syrup sauce. I would use all the ingredients, because the cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda together, is of course, baking powder and with that you can make a nice, steamed pudding.”
Judging in London, Sat Bains: “It is too close to call and there are some good skills there, but I think the true test is going to be at the final. Out of those chefs we picked, there isn’t one that stands out. There’s everything to play for in the final because it’s a really even playing field.”
Judging in London, Brian Turner CBE: I think some of them found it more difficult than they thought they would do, even though they were using beautiful produce, but the six chosen were the right ones to go through.”
The finalists were chosen following two regional finals, which took place on Thursday 24th March 2022 at the University of West London, Ealing, and University College Birmingham.
- Only Jonathan Ferguson has reached the National Final before, in 2020/21.
- Christos Sidiropoulos and Yiannis Mexis have both reached the regional finals before and are friends with one another, having a Greek background in common.
- Ruth Hansom is the most experienced competition chef; having won the Craft Guild’s Young Chef of the Year 2017, Great British Menu 2018 and having reached the finals in the Bocuse d’Or 2021.
- Many of the judges felt some of the chefs could have showcased the ingredients better, with Dover sole and brown shrimps being prime ingredients, so their advice for future applicants is to really get to know the ingredients well before planning their recipes.
- The chefs competing in the Regional Finals came from a wide range of establishments, from gastropubs to contract catering, to Michelin-starred restaurants.
Photo credits: London finalists and mystery box ingredients, Chris Terry. Birmingham finalists, Anna Lythgoe.