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Top British Chefs fight it out to reach the finals of Prestigious National Prize

Blue Arrow Chef of the Year Finalists Announced


Last week the exceptional chefs that made it through to the semi-finals of the Blue Arrow Chef of the Year battled through an intense competition to win one of the three coveted places at the finals. The event took place at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, founded by famous restaurateur and food critic Prue Leith.  Chefs Luke Smith, currently head chef at newly opened restaurant Level 39, in prestigious Canada Square, Richard Skinner, sous chef from Artizian, and Gareth Ruck, a sous chef at South African investment bank, Investec were announced as the successful finalists, who will compete in the finals which will take place in November.  Jean Christophe Novelli and current Blue Arrow resident chef, Sudha Shankar Saha, along with Allister Bishop, Executive Sous Chef at Harrods, Jim Norris, Director of Food Catering at MITIE Facilities Management and Andrew Bennett MBE, Executive Chef & Food and Beverages Manager at the Park Lane Hotel, London will form the panel of expert judges to line up to scrutinise the finalists as they battle it out to be named Blue Arrow Chef of the Year.  The winning chef will become Blue Arrow’s resident chef and company ambassador, giving him the opportunity to cook for some of UK’s top chefs and win a gastro weekend getaway for two when crowned Blue Arrow’s first ever Chef of the Year 2013. 
The competition finalists showcased their talent by cooking their winning three course menu, which had originally secured them their place in the semi-finals. Richard’s menu started with poached tiger prawns, ricotta and heirloom tomato salad, a main course of hay-baked Cornish rack of lamb, caramelised shallot puree, pommes Anna, glazed baby carrots and Pedro Ximnez sauce. For dessert, Valrhona chocolate and rosemary fool, cocoa streusel and orange compote.
Luke’s three course menu commenced with a sweetcorn panacotta, Wye Valley asparagus, salt caramel popcorn and summer truffle, a main course consisting of a canon of Cornish lamb, honeyed sweetbreads, minted gnocchi and pea puree. This was rounded off with a dessert of original bean chocolate, mara de bois, honeycomb and mascarpone.
Gareth’s menu consisted of textures of beetroot and goats cheese salad, a main course trio of Lancashire salt marsh lamb, basil pomme puree and provencal garnish, finished with a Valrhona dark chocolate tart and an orange and hazelnut semi fredo.
Quotes from the Judges:
“The quality of cooking in the semi-finals far surpassed my expectations and all the chefs competing should be proud of reaching this stage of the competition. One or two clearly talented chefs allowed the ’competition pressure’ to affect their performance; there were a couple of missing ingredients and some timing issues which cost these chefs a place in the final,” commented Nick Gourley, a consultant for the hospitality industry.
He continues: “The three finalists produced some very inspiring plates of food. I was particularly impressed with some of the intricate flavour combinations and depth of skills displayed. The final will be an exciting affair and will be very closely contested. I am sure the culinary battle will produce even more innovative dishes and the Chef of the Year will be a very worthy winner.”
“The standard of quality on display throughout the entire competition has been remarkable. The dishes produced by the contestants were of such a high standard, choosing the finalists was not easy.  The judging panel looked mostly for delicate flavour, well executed dishes, creativity and the combination of innovation with technically accomplished skills. The chosen finalists showed a great understanding of these elements and we really look forward to the final competition which will be even more exciting,” commented Sudha Shankar Saha, Chef Patron, Saffron.
“The level of competition was very high indeed and the finalists we chose showed a great deal of skill, not only in their planning and preparation but also in the detailed application of their craft,” commented Mark Rigby, Executive Chef, Premier Foods.

Quotes from the Finalists:
“I was very nervous before the competition started however, as soon as I started to cook everything went to plan and I was happy with my overall execution of my dishes that I presented to the judges,” said Chef Luke Smith, Blue Arrow Chef of the Year Finalist.

“I was excited to take part in the competition and was impressed by the space and equipment supplied at the venue. The two hours we were given to cook flew by, but overall I was very happy with my performance,” Chef Richard Skinner, Blue Arrow Chef of the Year Finalist.

Quote from Semi-finalist:
“I really enjoyed my time in the competition and loved cooking in the semi-final. Although I didn’t make it through to the final cook off this time, I look forward to seeing how the competition unfolds. Good luck to the other chefs,” said Chef Craig Floate, Blue Arrow Chef of the Year Semi Finalist.
Charlotte Rush, Founder of the Blue Arrow Chef of the Year competition said: “It’s exciting to see the semi-finalists chefs really step up to the challenge of showcasing their skills, especially under such pressure. The standard of cooking and presentation was outstanding. It certainly proves to me that although the hospitality industry is facing a skills shortage, there is a host of existing talent here in Britain just waiting to be discovered. This competition was designed to hunt out and showcase the spectrum of skills and experience that is already out there. We hope it reaches out to existing chefs as well as inspire a new generation of chefs to find out about the wealth of varied career opportunities within the hospitality industry which we can help facilitate this by matching the right candidates with the right jobs.”
The profile and menu of each chef can be found on the Blue Arrow Chef World website:
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