In April 2024, Karol Ploch won the title of Roux Scholar 2024 after the 40th anniversary competition took place at the Alain Roux Culinary School at The Waterside Inn. It was the first time the competition had been hosted there, after Chef Alain Roux converted the former home of his late father Michel Roux OBE into a state-of-the-art culinary school and library containing his extensive collection of books.

The 28-year-old Sous Chef from Kerridge’s Bar and Grill in London beat five other finalists to win the title, having cooked a dish that was centred around poached rainbow trout and Carlingford Oysters. The judging panel was led by Chef Thomas Keller, who during his briefing to the six finalists said: “We cook to nurture people, to make people happy. I want you to take that thought into your preparation today. You are cooking to nurture us and to make us happy.”

Karol was born and grew up in the town of Rzeszow, set in the mountainous region of south-east Poland. He first became interested in cooking after watching Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay, and other TV programmes featuring Marco Pierre White. He found the kitchen environment intriguing and exciting, and wanted to be part of it, which led to him signing up for culinary school aged 15. Following his training, he landed a job as a commis chef at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rzeszow, finding the pace faster and enjoying the camaraderie of the brigade. After a couple of years there, he continued his career at Radosc Restaurant, also in Rzeszow, where he enjoyed cooking ingredients supplied by local producers. During this time, Karol took part in the ICA Culinary Olympics competition in 2016 in Erfurt, Germany as part of the Polish National Culinary Team. Here he learned the discipline of a keeping a tidy workspace, working in a small environment, and not wasting ingredients, an experience that would stand him in good stead when it came to The Roux Scholarship finals.

His next career move took him to the Polish capital, Warsaw, where a role as chef de partie at Concept 13 Restaurant allowed him to encounter and appreciate high quality ingredients from across Europe, including excellent quality fish and foie gras. Here, he also learned from his chef, the renowned Polish chef Dariusz Baranski. The experience piqued his interest in Michelin-style dining, and he set his sights on gaining a role in a starred restaurant abroad.

Arriving in London in autumn 2018, Karol gained a role at Restaurant Story as commis chef, leading to chef de partie, where he enjoyed a much more precise, refined style of cooking and learned much from Chef Tom Sellers and Chef Tom Phillips, whose style is much inspired by their experiences working for Chef Thomas Keller at Per Se in New York – a nice full circle moment for Karol winning the year Chef Keller was Honorary President of Judges. He also enjoyed making friends from around the world. Karol’s career continued at Kerridge’s Bar & Grill at the Corinthia London, where he has climbed the ranks from Chef de Partie to Sous Chef and enjoys different methods of cooking and using excellent ingredients. Having been interested in The Roux Scholarship for a few years, Karol finally entered in 2024 realising that he only had two years left to qualify in the age limit. So with the support of Chef Tom Kerridge and Chef Nick Beardshaw, he created his recipe and practised it six times before the regional finals, where he impressed the judges at the London regional final with his dish ‘Roasted pork loin with pork and pistachio farce, sweet potato dauphine, glazed pork kidney with crackling crumb, mushroom bon bon and peppercorn sauce’.

Photos: Jodi Hinds.