Finalists face nervous wat for the National Chef of Wales result

Five talented chefs must wait until tomorrow (Thursday) night to discover which of them is the new National Chef of Wales.

The two-day final ended today with three chefs involved in a cook-off in the heat of the kitchen at the Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC), organised by the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW), at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s campus in Rhos-on-Sea.

It was 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.

Fellow finalists 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, had competed on Tuesday.

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 winning chef 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.

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

The National Chef of Wales finalists had 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 had a chance to taste the finalists’ dishes.

Smith, whose commis chef was Charlotte Latham, served up a vegan dish comprising a porridge of British grains, wild mushrooms, apple parsnips and nutritional yeast. His starter was confit salmon, seared scallop, sweet pickled cucumber, crab fritter and capsicum ketchup.

Main course was PGI Welsh Lamb saddle stuffed with mint cous cous and spinach, braised shoulder terrine, wild garlic croquette, roasted and pureed swede, yellow pea smoked bacon ragu, tomato and ewe’s cheese tartlet, jus of rosemary and port.

Dessert was Welsh whiskey and raspberry dark chocolate torte, grapefruit sorbet, choux, hazelnut caramel, compressed pear, Welsh Greek yoghurt and tuille.

He said: “I was very happy with my dishes and everything went according to plan. Charlotte and I worked well as a team.”

Herbert, whose commis chef was Jamaar Semper, cooked a vegan baked potato gnocchi with cep and Welsh truffle and a starter of Anglesey sea bass with lavabread and cucumber. Main course was a duo of Welsh Lamb with spiced carrot and yoghurt and his menu was completed by chocolate cremeux with pear.

“I thought I was going to be nervous but everything went well when I started cooking and I enjoyed the experience,” he said.

Barnard, whose commis chef was Rhys Hill, opened his menu with spiced celeriac, comprising Penderyn whisky, mushroom ketchup, pickled salsify, apple salsa and baled celeriac emulsion.

His starter was laverbread crab donut, Cardigan Bay shellfish, roast fennel mayonnaise and yuzu pearls and main course Welsh Lamb hotpot, comprising lamb faggot, braised leek, Welsh rarebit dumpling, black treacle mustard and olive jus

Dessert was red wine and cardamom poached apple, white chocolate glaze, torch blood orange, bitter chocolate jelly, ginger pistachio tuille and Merlyn liquor ice cream.

Barnard said: “It was nice to cook the 48 dishes and I did my best. Its now up to the judges but I was happy with my dishes.”

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.

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.