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Chef From Dabbous to Roux


ou can hear a pin drop as the six Roux Scholarship finalists take their seats and look up at the daunting line-up of chef judges. Among them are four previous win- ners: Andrew Fairlie, André Garrett, Sat Bains and Simon Hulstone, plus there’s James Mar- tin, Brian Turner and David Nicholls. Presiding over everyone is Alain Roux


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and Michel Roux Jr, with five Michelin stars between them. They are now in charge of the elite chef competition – the first year that they’re doing it without any prompting at the back from their famous parents, Albert Roux and Michel Roux Sr, who founded the schol- arship in 1984. Sitting in the middle of this male, Michelin- starred chefdom is the diminutive but pow- erful presence of Anne-Sophie Pic, France’s only female three-Michelin-starred chef. This year, Pic has been chosen as the honorary president of the judges. “The two families are closely linked, so it’s a particular honour,” she tells me later.


“I know it looks scary, but try and relax,” encourages Roux Jr as he introduces every- body. “All of you got to the final on merit and we already know you can cook, so enjoy the day,” he adds with a warm smile. The training restaurant at Westminster Kingsway College is normally packed with tables, but now it’s the scene of the hospital- ity industry’s toughest culinary competition, whose winner will gain privileged access to an exclusive chefs’ club, not to mention an impressive stash of prizes, including a three- month stage at the three-Michelin-starred restaurant of the winner’s choice.


28 | The Caterer | 28 April 2017 The judges


Joint chairman Alain Roux, chef-patron, the Waterside Inn, Bray, Berkshire Joint chairman Michel Roux Jr, chef-patron, Le Gavroche, London Honorary president of the judges 2017 Anne-Sophie Pic, chef-patron, Maison Pic, Valence, France, and La Dame de Pic, Four Seasons Trinity Square London Vice-chairman Brian Turner, president, the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Head scholar Andrew Fairlie, chef-proprietor, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, Gleneagles


Sat Bains, chef-patron, Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham André Garrett, executive head chef, Cliveden House, Taplow, Berkshire Simon Hulstone, chef-proprietor, the Elephant, Torquay, Devon James Martin, chef-proprietor, James Martin Manchester 235 Restaurant, and consultant chef, Chewton Glen David Nicholls, group director F&B, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group


The final, now in its 34th year, demands


both jaw-dropping technical ability and a working knowledge of the recipes and styles of Auguste Escoffier, plus a level head to stay calm and focused. And for finalist Scott Dineen at BaxterStorey, even more calm than usual is required – this is his fourth time in the final and his fourth attempt at the scholar-


Luke Selby, head chef at Dabbous and the latest winner of the coveted Roux Scholarship, cooked a notoriously tricky recipe to win over the judges at the final. Fiona Sims goes behind the scenes at the contest to discover what the judges thought of him


ship. “Last year I didn’t read the brief properly – I won’t make that mistake again,” he says. Martin Carabott competed last year too. “It’s good to get your name out there – though it helps that I’ve got a lot of support from my boss,” says the Luca restaurant chef. The Driftwood hotel’s Matthew Whitfield is also no stranger to the contest, competing in the regional heat in 2011 and 2012 – although this is the first time he has got to the final. “I’m in a good position now, so I thought I’d go for it. Though to be honest, I’m just happy to be here,” he says. There is an X-Factor-style pause before Roux Jr reveals the dish the chefs will be cooking: royal-style saddle of hare, chestnut-flavoured tagliatelle and purple sprouting broccoli. “It’s a Roux family recipe inspired by Antonin Carême,” he tells the finalists, which doesn’t help to calm their nerves. “I reckon most of this lot have never done


this dish before,” whispers judge Martin. “Or even fumbled around in a hare’s cavity before,” adds Fairlie, the very first Roux Scholar, who was tasked with briefing the finalists to give them an overview of the day. Roux Jr continues to explain the dish:


“There is a bit of room for interpretation. You can use as many ingredients as you want, and you can do what you want with the broccoli,” he says. His cousin, Alain, urges competitors to ask questions, but only two finalists raise their hands – there’s one query about the ballotine, and another about the serving dish they are to use, before they all settle down to their reference books.


The finalists are allowed half an hour with www.thecaterer.com


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