“I think from the moment I entered the competition it's been a journey that doesn’t stop. Meeting all the judges and being surrounded by such amazing people has been the best part for me.”
Spencer took the crown of Roux Scholar 2019 at the age of 26 while working as Premier Sous Chef at The Ritz, London. He first entered the Ritz’ kitchens on work experience at the age of 15, after which he gained a position as apprentice, later working his way up to sous chef. In 2016, Spencer left to spend a year working at L’Enclume in Cartmel as chef de partie, before returning to The Ritz in summer 2017. He was promoted to head chef in July 2021. Also that month, he was awarded an Acorn Award from The Caterer, celebrating his success as one of the 30 most talented stars under 30.
Born in Essex, Spencer grew up in Chigwell, and first realised he wanted to be a chef when he was 15 after completing a two-week work experience at The Ritz under John Williams. From that point, he knew it was the career he wanted to pursue. Like many chefs who have qualified in the Roux Scholarship finals, Spencer trained at Bournemouth and Poole College.
For the final, Spencer impressed the judges by getting every element of the dish right, despite not having prepared subrics before. Michel Roux Jr said: “That sauce was was amazing! We were fighting over each other to finish it!”. In his regional final in Birmingham, he also impressed the judges with his sauce, with judge Angela Hartnett saying it was the “Best sauce she’d ever tasted”.
Tell us about your stage?
I went to Frantzén in Stockholm. It was so much more than I expected. After a month of working in the prep kitchen, I started to help with the service; all the chefs serve the food and not all the interns get to do service, so that was great. I cooked with a lot of new ingredients that I’ve never heard of before, such as Myoga, Japanese Ginger, and sea urchins and abalone. There were a lot of techniques I’ve never seen before either and I got to know them really well.
What did you cook in the final?
Monkfish blanquette and langoustines with saffron basmati rice, garnished with seasonal vegetables and asparagus subrics. I really enjoyed cooking it, I really did. It was a bit stressful at times, but I was proud of what I cooked.
How many times did you enter?
I had been debating entering the competition for two years, and finally entered in 2019 when I felt confident in my cooking and knowledge. To win first time was fantastic; competing against so many great chefs and in front of such esteemed judges, many of which have been and continue to be an inspiration to my cooking and interest in food.
What are your best memories of taking part in the Roux Scholarship?
I think from the moment I entered the competition it's been a journey that doesn’t stop. Meeting all the judges and being surrounded by such amazing people has been the best part for me, it opens you to a network which can be very intimidating and elite.
What advice would you give applicants?
I think when entering the competition you have to be 100 per cent committed all the way through; firstly having support from your head chef and establishment where you are working is imperative. The first recipe, I believe, is a real test as it is judged blind, it's not about where you have worked or what position you are. It's showing you have thought out every detail, getting the costings correct, ensuring you can prepare it in the time selected and the recipe is perfect. If you make it through to the semi final, then it is then practice, practice, practice. That will give you the confidence to cook your dish to the best of your ability.
Who are your culinary heroes?
I think firstly I would mention John Williams who has always inspired me my whole career and continues to. A man who is such more than a chef, a person who is a role model, mentor and ambassador for British Chefs. The Roux Family have always inspired me from a young age, their approach to classic cookery has always been something I admired and the Roux family are real inspirations individually and collectively. I admire Bjorn Frantzén for his approach to cooking and also as a leader who is really, in my eyes, at the top of the culinary ladder.