Talented Welsh chefs are keen to continue the ‘Together Stronger’ mantra that brought the nation’s football team record breaking success at this summer’s Euro Cup 2016 tournament when they compete in the Culinary Olympics in Germany next month.
After the heroics of Gareth Bale and his teammates in France and gold medallist Welsh athletes at the Rio Olympic Games, members of the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) have every reason to be filled with pride but at the same time feel under pressure to deliver on the biggest culinary stage.
Carrying Welsh hopes in Erfurt against the best in the world will be senior and junior teams, both including a liberal sprinkling of newcomers to international competition, where they are challenged to cook to exacting standards.
Both Wales teams compete in the hot kitchen – the first element of the competition – on October 22 and present their artistic food displays on Monday, October 24.
Thirty-two national senior teams and 20 junior teams from will be cooking over four days of intense competition. The Culinary Olympics are organised every four years and endorsed by the World Associations of Chefs’ Societies, or Worldchefs, of which the CAW is a member.
The Wales senior team is captained by Danny Burke, 39, co-owner of Shared Olive Restaurant and Olive Tree Catering, Hawarden, who has been competing with Wales for 18 years.
He is joined by Karl Jones Hughes and Simon Crockford from the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, Ryan Jones from Dawn Meats, Cross Hands, Wales, Jason Hughes from Chateau Rhianfa, Menai Bridge and Michael Ramsden from Cambrian Training Company, Welshpool.
“The success Wales has achieved at every sports tournament this year has created a bit of a double-edged sword for us, to be honest,” said Danny. “We are going to be trying our best to carry on the success from the Euro Cup 2016 and the Rio Olympics, but at the same time manage people’s expectations. The pressure is definitely on.
“We do hope to follow suit with the ‘Together Stronger’ message and create a family environment and togetherness, which will attract even more Welsh chefs to be competing for places in the future. It’s important that we have continuity and consistency between the junior and senior teams.
“Countries around the world have all stepped up a gear and we have had to do the same. We are really well prepared and would love to win a gold medal for our hot menu, which is clean, modern, full of flavour and as aesthetically appealing as we can possibly make it.”
The junior team is captained by Jack Davison, Deganwy Quay Hotel and Spa, Deganwy, Conwy. His teammates are: Joe Jones, Carden Park Hotel, near Chester, Steffan Davies, Gidleigh Park, Exeter, Sion Roberts, Pollen Street Social, London, Harry Paynter-Roberts, Castle Hotel, Conwy and Arron Tye, Shared Olive and Ffion Lewis, Hilltop Honey, Caersws.
CAW team manager is Peter Fuchs, culinary director at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport and the junior team is coached by Michael Evans, a lecturer at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai.
“The junior team has won silver medals in two major competitions and we would like to continue in that vein,” said Mr Evans. “We have a nice, close-knit team and they have worked very well together and gelled from the start.”
The junior teams at the Culinary Olympics are entering new territory this year, as a new element is being introduced with a hot and cold edible buffet and live theatre, which will test the young chefs’ cooking ability to the limit.
Mr Fuchs said the CAW squad had committed hundreds of hours of their own time into preparations for the Culinary Olympics without payment. The time and dedication required to compete on the international stage had taken its toll, as some chefs had been forced to stand down due to work and family commitments.
“We started preparing in June last year and we aim to be in good shape for Erfurt,” he added. “It’s the ultimate challenge for our chefs and we hope to deliver a good result for Wales.”
Certainly, the team’s management has tried to lay the foundations for a successful campaign, having welcomed an expert from Sweden’s professional team to give glazing tips for the cold table display to members of the Wales, England and Scotland teams.
The senior team held its final run through of their hot kitchen menu at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport last night (Monday) when Wales’ Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural AffairsLesley Griffiths and sponsors were among the 110 guests.
The Cabinet Secretary sent her best wishes with both teams. “Wales’ reputation for producing high quality food and drink continues to grow and the Culinary Olympics are a chance to raise our culinary profile even further and showcase our produce to the world,” she said. “I wish the team the very best of luck.”
The senior team’s hot kitchen menu comprises a starter of butter poached langoustine, pan fried scallop with textures of cauliflower and granola. Main course is: herb and potato crusted beef fillet, braised and glazed beef cheek, truffle and Parmesan potato, onion puree and confit carrot. Dessert is chocolate marquise with coconut, ganache with raspberry and biscuits, raspberry parfait on coconut mallow, praline crusted roasted pineapple and pineapple gel.
The junior team’s hot kitchen menu opens with a starter of salmon and crab with beetroot, horseradish cream, pea shoots and crispy salad. Main course is roasted Welsh fillet, braised beef cheek ravioli, baby gem lettuce, Chantaney carrots, celeriac and Madeira jus. Dessert is: Granny Smith apple frangipane and compote, spiced vanilla syrup, poached Golden Delicious apple, sorbet and mousse and apple and blackberry coulis.
The Culinary Olympics will be an important showcase not only for talented chefs but also for Welsh food and drink products. An accompanying Food and Drink Wales Showcase will be held in the Worldchefs Village to highlight the quality and innovation of Welsh products. A range of chilled and ambient products will be displayed and a presenter will speak to chefs about their provenance.