Welsh chefs join Sam Warburton in quest for international success

Welsh chefs competing in last year’s Battle for the Dragon contest.

While Sam Warburton and the Wales rugby squad are busy honing their skills for what promises to be an intriguing Six Nations campaign, their culinary counterparts are preparing for own international battle.


Three days after Wales entertain Scotland in their second Six Nations match of the campaign on February 13, Culinary Team Wales begin their quest to win the Battle of the Dragon contest.


The Welsh chefs will be competing against national culinary teams from Scotland and England over three days at the Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC) at Coleg Llandrillo, Rhos-on-Sea, Colwyn Bay.


Whilst Sam Warburton and his teammates put in the hard yards on the rugby pitch, there will no less commitment by the chefs selected to represent Wales. Apart from contending with the heat of the kitchen, the chefs have the pressure of cooking an identical three course menu for 85 diners on Tuesday, February 16.


Wednesday, February 17 sees England go into the kitchen to produce their three course menu, followed on Thursday by Scotland. 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.


Just like the teams competing for the Six Nations trophy, it’s a big year for their chef counterparts, who have one eye on the Culinary Olympics in Germany in October. A good result in the Battle for the Dragon will set the winners up for the ultimate global challenge in Erfurt.


News of the three national culinary teams practising their Culinary Olympics menus in North Wales is fantastic news for 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. Tickets are being snapped up quickly, so early booking is advisable.


Culinary Team 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.


“It will be the first opportunity for each of the teams to practise their dishes for the Culinary Olympics in a competitive environment after months of careful planning and preparations,” said Arwyn Watkins, Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) president. “As national pride is at stake, the pressure will be on.


“It’s a very rare opportunity for people who enjoy fine dining to sample dishes prepared by the best chefs in Wales, England and Scotland. The next time the three teams will be together will be at the Culinary Olympics, so it should be an exciting and fascinating contest and a great showcase for culinary skills in the UK.”


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.


Deputy Minister for Farming and Food Rebecca Evans will be attending the WICC awards dinner to congratulate the winners.


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.