It’s been an exciting year, and I’ve had lots of opportunities to do things that I’ve never done before and attend really interesting events and meet some wonderful people. Recently, I had the honour of being invited to judge a cookery competition in London, the Cuisine Cup at L’atelier des Chefs. The competition aims to be a showcase for amateur culinary talent and is held in the UK, in several locations in France, and in Belgium, with one qualifying candidate from each location competing in a final in Paris.
There were four judges. Two chefs: Pascal Aussignac, chef at Club Gascon & Will Torrent, an up and coming confectioner and pastry chef, Jerome from L’atelier des Chefs and one blogger (me). Starting at 9am, the 12 qualifying competitors started with breakfast and then started to cook. The only requirement was that it should be an original recipe with salmon as the focus. Recipes had been submitted in advance and the best chosen for the competition that day.
The entrants were staggered to allow us sufficient time between entrants to judge the (10 minutes between each). The entries varied wildly, with some really good examples of well executed solid cooking, with, at the other end of the spectrum, some really interesting creative and modern dishes. The four qualifying dishes were:
Luke’s: roasted salmon served with spinach, roasted tomatoes and pesto, perfectly cooked and seasoned, I would be very happy to have this served to me in a good gastropub
Ilya’s: grilled salmon, smoked milk, matcha and avruga meringue
Emmanuel’s: roasted salmon, lime condiment, black and yellow polenta fingers
Nathalie’s: spicy marinated salmon skewers, leek frayed scented with clementines, ginger and passion fruit foam.
On to lunch, which naturally I couldn’t fit, as big an appetite as I have, all that tasting was sufficient for brunch. It was lovely to meet everyone and chat to them about their dishes and get to know them a bit better.
Next step, the last four went on to cook rack of lamb. The rules were that they had to create an original dish for 4 people, ready in 90 minutes with a rack of lamb and a selection of accompanying ingredients, plus one special ingredient that they could bring themselves. Again, there were some really interesting dishes but the simplest and best executed won out, and this came from 15 year old Londoner Luke, who impressed with his natural flair. The chef’s were fighting to have him in their kitchen, and indeed, he will do a stage with each.
It was a lovely and very inspiring day. All the entrants had such passion, and very different approaches to food. It was genuinely inspiring and it was a real pleasure to meet everyone and to judge in such esteemed company. I had lots of fun and I wish Luke all the very best with the Paris final and his future career in the world of food.
Thanks to everyone at L’atelier des Chefs for asking me to judge and to all the entrants for entering such wonderful dishes.
(Photos courtesy of L’atelier des Chefs. Read their blog post here.)