Chefs set high standard on first day of National Chef of Wales final

Two chefs set a high standard on the first day of the National Chef of Wales final at the Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC) today (Tuesday).

First into the kitchen in the final, which continues tomorrow at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s campus in Rhos-on-Sea, were Andrew Tabberner, 29, chef co-owner of Gaerwen Arms, Gaerwen, Anglesey and Robert Cave, 38, from Wrexham, senior sous chef at Rookery Hall, Worleston, Nantwich.

Tabberner, whose comms chefs was Ollie Thompson, is bidding to complete a notable double, having won the Junior Chef of Wales title in 2015 while Cave was making his competition debut.

Tomorrow, it’s the turn of Matthew Smith, 38, sous chef at Chartists 1770 at The Trewythen Hotel, Llanidloes, Wayne Barnard, 39, sous chef at Manor Parc Country Hotel and Restaurant, Thornhill, Cardiff and Thomas Herbert, 24, from Bridgend, chef de partie at Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Chippenham, to showcase their skills.

The winner will be announced at the WICC Presentation Dinner at the Imperial Hotel, Llandudno on Thursday evening. At stake is £1,000 for the winner, £500 for the runner-up and £300 for third place.

The winner will also have the opportunity to represent Wales at the next Worldchefs Global Chefs Challenge Northern Europe heat and will receive a set of knives from Friedr Dick and £250 worth of Churchill products.

The WICC are organised by the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) and main sponsor is Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government’s department representing the food and drink industry.

The National Chef of Wales finalists have five hours to prepare and cook their own four course menu for 12 people, featuring mostly Welsh ingredients. A vegan starter is followed by a fish dish, a main course using two different cuts of Welsh Lamb and a dessert featuring seasonal fruits, ice cream, chocolate and biscuit or tuille.

For the first time at the WICC, invited guests and sponsors have a chance to taste the finalists’ dishes.

Tabberner’s menu opened with Anglesey potato with Medwyn’s leeks, vegan smoked cheese and Welsh truffle. Next up was Menai lobster risotto with preserved lemon,  Exmoor caviar and Menai oyster.

Main course was titled Tom’s dry aged loin of lamb with tender stem broccoli, wild garlic, anchovy and lamb bourguignon. The menu was completed with Apple millionaire which included shortbread, caramelia chocolate caramel and Calvados ice cream.

Confessing to feeling nervous on his return to competition, Tabberner said: “I was really happy with my dishes, which was an improvement on the last time I competed in final.

“Ollie and I both really enjoyed it and it would be a great privilege to represent Wales at the Global Chefs Challenge if I win the title.”

Cave, whose commis chef was Georgi Brazev, served up crisp vegan sausage with glazed hen of the woods, salt baked beetroot and beetroot ketchup, followed by Anglesey crab tart with crab apple , macerated cucumber and brown crab mayonnaise.

Main course was titled Daphne’s Welsh Lamb, with roast lamb rump, yakatori barbecued lamb rib, provençale vegetables, ewe’s curd, basil and lamb jus. Dessert was Wickedly Welsh Halen Mon crémeux with Viennese biscuit, poached pear, Penderyn whiskey ice cream and marigold.

Cave said: “Everything went to plan. I was very happy overall with my dishes and loved the pressure of the kitchen.”

The judges were Colin Gray, managing director of Capital Cuisine, Caerphilly, Graham Tinsley, executive chef Carden Park, near Chester,  Michael Evans, lecturer at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Danny Burke, co-owner Olive Tree Catering, Runcorn and Lee Corke, catering manager, Clare College, Cambridge.

Gray, CAW vice president, said the first two finalists had set a high standard with their dishes. “We have upped the ante this year, with 12 covers and four courses,  but the reaction from both chefs was very positive,” he added.

“They liked the change of format because it was more closely related to what they do at work. They produced some really good dishes which was pleasing and it was a team effort with their commis chefs.”

Other WICC sponsors include Castel Howell, Churchill, Major International, Riso Gallo, Dick Knives, MCS Tech Products, Hybu Cig Cymru/ Meat Promotion Wales, Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Cambrian Training Company, Roller Grill and Ecolab.