Personal and regional pride will be stake as four of the nation’s best young chefs put their skills to the test in the Junior Chef of Wales final this afternoon (Monday).
The final cook-off, which is being held on the eve of the Welsh International Culinary Championships at Coleg Llandrillo, Rhos-on-Sea, will be a north versus south battle.
Representing South Wales are Andrew Tabberner, 22, chef de partie at Coast Restaurant, Saundersfoot and Vivienne Read, 20, a commis chef at Celtic Manor Resort, Newport. They face North Wales rivals Sam Ricketts, 20, chef de partie at Signatures Restaurant, Conwy and Arron Tye, 20, demi chef de partie at Shared Olive, Hawarden.
Apart from claiming the coveted title of Junior Chef of Wales and the dragon trophy, the winner will also secure an all-expenses paid trip to represent Wales at the Junior Forum held at the World Association of Chefs’ Societies Congress in Athens, Greece in May 2016.
Organised every two years by the Culinary Association of Wales, the Junior Chef of Wales contest is sponsored by the Welsh Government to promote the Food and Drink Wales brand.
In the final, the chefs will be given three hours to cook their own creative menu for a three course dinner for four persons, using a selection of Welsh products. The only stipulations are that the starter must include Welsh sea bass and the main course Welsh pork. The dessert will left to the chef’s own choice but must include seasonal ingredients.
Andrew, who won the South Wales heat, thanked his head chef Will Holland for his guidance and is looking forward to the final. “It would be a massive achievement if I could win the competition,” he said
Originally from Birmingham, he fell in love with cooking at school and hopes to become a senior sous chef within the next five years.
Sam, winner of the North Wales heat, said: “To win the heat and be named North Wales Junior Chef of the Year was just amazing and a great achievement. I am now really excited about the final and can’t wait.”
He revealed that his chef uncle inspired him to follow in his footsteps after watching him cook Christmas dinner when he was 11. He hopes to one day own his own restaurant and achieve a Michelin star.
Vivienne and Arron qualified for the final as the top scoring runners up and are both setting their sights on victory. “I would love to win and I’m going to do the best I can,” said Vivienne, who lives in Newport. “I entered to get competition experience, to show what I can do and to meet new people and have really enjoyed it.
“Working at the Celtic Manor has given me lots of opportunities and I would like to work in a small, Michelin starred restaurant and maybe have my own restaurant one day.”
Arron, who is coached by former Junior Chef of Wales and National Chef of Wales double champion Danny Burke, revealed that his inspiration to do well in the competition comes from his late granddad, George Reddicliffe, who died shortly before the North Wales heat.
“My granddad passed away a month ago and he encouraged me to enter the competition,” said Arron, who lives in Wrexham. “He’s my inspiration and hopefully I can win it for him.
“I was really surprised to get through to the final and I’m now feeling a mixture of excitement and stress. My cooking style is traditional with a modern influence and my ambition is to become a head chef.”
Culinary Association of Wales president Colin Gray is predicting a keenly contested final between four talented young chefs. “Judging by the scores from both heats, I think it’s going to be a tight final and we should be in for a great competition,” he said.
“I hope members of the public take the opportunity to watch these chefs in action, as they are potentially our culinary stars of the future.”
The final begins at 1pm and is open to spectators free of charge.