National pride will be at stake when talented chefs from Culinary Team Wales take on rivals England and Scotland in the Battle of the Dragon contest later this month.
It’s a special year for all three national teams as they build towards the Culinary Olympics, the premier global event for chefs, in Germany in October.
The Battle for the Dragon contest is one of the showpiece events at the Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC) at Coleg Llandrillo, Rhos-on-Sea, Colwyn Bay from February 15 to 18.
Leading Wales into battle for the first time will be award winning North Wales chef Danny Burke who has competed with the national team around the world and was the first to win both the Junior and National Chef of Wales titles in consecutive years.
Danny, a partner in Shared Olive Restaurant, Hawarden and Cheshire-based Olive Tree Catering, is proud to have been appointed captain and is keen for the Welsh team to do well in the Battle for the Dragon and the Culinary Olympics.
“I’m very pleased but also humbled to be appointed captain,” he said. “It will be a great experience for us as chefs to compete for Wales in the Battle and the Culinary Olympics.
“It’s the start of a new chapter for the team under a new manager and I am pleased to be part of that. We would love to win the Battle but the competition is part of the process of preparing for the Culinary Olympics and all three national teams are in the same boat.
“Practices have gone well, everyone is pulling together and working hard and there is a good team spirit as the chefs really want to be part of the Welsh squad. It’s not just about the six chefs that are competing, as they rely on the support of the squad as a whole.
“I am looking forward to the Battle as it will be a good barometer to see where each team is at going into the Olympics.
“We tend to forget that Wales enjoyed a golden era when we won gold medals in global competitions and were ranked seventh in the world. Many experienced chefs have since retired from the team which is now in a period of transition, but we are aiming to get back to winning gold medals.”
The Wales team is managed by Peter Fuchs, culinary director at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, which also contributes two members in Karl Jones-Hughes, executive pastry chef and Simon Crockford, head chef.
The other team members are Hefin Roberts, head chef at Ye Olde Bulls Head Inn, Beaumaris, Kieran Harry, a freelance chef and Michael Ramsden, training officer with Cambrian Training Company, Welshpool.
The England team is managed by Nick Vadis, culinary director for Compass Group UK and captained by Adam Smith, head chef at the Devonshire Arms Hotel, Skipton. Team members are Simon Webb, from HSBC, Canary Wharf, London, Clark Crawley, from Gather & Gather, Lloyds Banking Group, London, Dennis Mwakulua from Eversheds, Restaurant Associates, London,Andrew Ditchfield from the House of Commons, London and Nathan Aldous from Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
Mr Vadis said: “This is a great opportunity for the England team to pit themselves against teams of a similar standing in the industry and a great event for chefs to network.
“The team is very comfortable with the menu and it’s an opportunity to test the dishes that we may take to the Culinary Olympcs.”
Scotland’s team managed is Bruce Lawrence, executive chef for Entier Limited, Aberdeen and captain is Orry Shand, sous chef at The Chester Hotel, Aberdeen, which also provides team member Craig Palmer. The other team members are Robbie Penman from Pebble Hydro, Peebles, Darren Seggie from City of Glasgow College, Gareth Linden from The Champany Inn, Linlithgow and Ross Murray from New Lanark Mill Hotel, New Lanark.
Kevin MacGillivary, culinary team director at the Federation of Chefs Scotland, said the team was looking forward to the competition and would be coming to win the Dragon Trophy.
“At the end of the day, we are representing Scotland and want to put on a good show,” he said. “We want to be able to come away from Wales happy with the dishes that we are going to carry through the Culinary Olympics in Erfurt.”
Each team has to cook a three course menu for 85 diners, with Wales leading off on Tuesday, February 16, followed by England on Wednesday and Scotland on Thursday.
The teams’ dishes and cooking skills will be closely examined by a panel of experienced international judges, who will announce the Battle for the Dragon winners at the WICC Awards dinner at Llandudno Bay Hotel on Thursday night.
Lovers of fine food who will get a rare chance to dine out with the chefs over the three days of the competition. Tickets for each Battle for the Dragon lunch cost £23 or £21 each when booking all three and are available from Sarah Williams, marketing officer at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, who can be contacted on Tel: 01492 542 322.
Wales will serve up a starter of air dried ham wrapped monkfish, smoked haddock kiev with chilli and laverbread, butter parsley and bone marrow custard, beetroot and walnut soil, horseradish mousse and pickled apple.
Main course is roasted Welsh Lamb rump with toasted barley and thyme leek, potato and lamb pastry, glazed vegetables and craft beer jus. Dessert is chocolate, raspberry and coconut dark chocolate and ginger cake truffle, coconut mallow, iced raspberry air warm raspberry sponge and caramel wafer.
Team England’s menu opens with a starter of seared scallop, smoked eel, horseradish bon bon, cauliflower textures, pickled beets, apple and truffle.
Their main course is aged Welsh Beef, mushroom purée, hen of the woods, oxtail, pickled onion, turnip and Tunworth. Dessert is glazed chocolate mousse, caramelised mascarpone and spiced winter pear with almond and honey cake and almond milk ice-cream.
To complete the competition, Team Scotland will serve up a starter of seared West Coast scallop, smoked haddock Scotch egg, Barwheys Cheddar espuma, caramelised cauliflower and jus gras.
Main course is roast Scotch lamb loin, spiced glazed flank, crispy sweetbread, semolina gnocchi, carrot and apricot puree and black olive jus. Dessert is 72% chocolate cremeaux, caramel mousse, noisette crumb, Yuzu gel, roast banana ice cream and shortbread foam.
The WICC brings together the very best culinary skills and food and drink products that Wales has to offer for four days of quality competitions. The mouthwatering event is packed with exciting competitions for learner, junior and senior chefs and waiting staff.
Around 300 competitors are expected to attend the WICC. Organised by the CAW, the WICC has Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government’s department representing the food and drink industry, as its main sponsor.
In addition to the Battle for the Dragon contest, the WICC also features the Junior Chef of Wales and Skills Competition Wales professional cookery finals on Monday, February 15 and the National Chef of Wales final on Thursday, February 18.
The growing popularity of baking, sugarcraft and cake decorating is reflected in the Cake Cymru show, with entries expected from across Wales and England for the show.
There will be a live web stream of the WICC at www.gllm.ac.uk/welshfood and viewers can also follow the action on the CAW’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Culinary-Association-of-Wales-Cymdeithas-Coginiol-Cymru-233215000086016/ on Twitter at https://twitter.com/WELSHCHEFS and http://welshculinarychampionships.tweetwally.com/ and on YouTube athttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCljjcHbTK-fz2ZdtgsxGNVQ