Chefs cook their way to the Grand Final

Michael Sutherland, Michael Notman-Watt and George Boarer are looking forward to February's Grand Final

Local Sussex ingredients were showcased at their best in the autumn menus of six superb young Sussex chefs who took part in a sizzling ‘MasterChef’ style cook off at the Amex Stadium in Brighton.

The heat was turned up and the competition was fierce to decide the winner of the coveted title Sussex Young Chef of the Year, sponsored by Sodexo Prestige, as part of the Sussex Food and Drink Awards 2018.

George Boarer from Etch in Brighton, Michael Notman-Watt from 64 Degrees in Brighton and last year’s winner, Michael Sutherland from The Star Inn in Alfriston, East Sussex were thrilled to be announced as this year’s Grand Finalists. All three will be invited to the Sussex Food and Drink Awards banquet, taking place on 7 February 2018 at the Amex stadium, where the overall winner of Sussex Young Chef of the Year will be revealed and presented with their winning trophy.

They fought off some very tough competition as all the young chefs performed at their very best and delivered some superb menus. The three runners up were Jack Green from The Cat Inn in West Hoathly, West Sussex; Bethan Ralph from The Shepherd and Dog in Fulking, West Sussex; and George Thomas from Isaac At in Brighton. All six chefs who took part were presented with a fantastic SuperFast Thermapen® goodie bag.

The chefs were asked to create a special three-course dinner with ingredients from Sussex producers, farmers and growers, which could be served to over 300 VIP’s and local dignitaries at a special event at the Amex Stadium later this year, celebrating Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club’s promotion to the Premier League.

Malcolm Emery, Principal Chef at Sodexo Prestige headed up the judging panel and joining him for the second year was Great British Menu champion, Matt Gillan from Pike and Pine in Brighton and Ben Dutson, Head Chef at Ascot Racecourse. They were looking at taste, presentation, market appeal and consumer trends used in the menus. Sourcing and creativity of ingredients used, the balance and mix of the dishes as well as the workmanship and food hygiene were also considered.

Said Malcolm Emery, “Each year the standard of food these talented young chefs produce simply gets better and better and they should all feel immensely proud of their efforts today. To produce top quality dishes with a limited budget of £15 per person and in just 90 minutes is always very impressive. They all have extremely bright futures and I congratulate each of them for getting this far in this incredibly tough competition.”

Said Ben Dutson: “Brighton is my hometown and it’s lovely to be back. I have previously worked in some of the establishments the chefs have come from today and it’s amazing to see how many new chefs are coming out of them. Some of the young chefs are returning competitors this year, which is great to see. It’s an exciting time for Sussex food.”

At 24 years old, George Boarer’s stunning starter of fresh local sea bass with cauliflower and apple was followed by a delicious main course of South Downs venison with celeriac and celery cooked to perfection. To finish he produced an unusual, but stunning goats milk dessert with honey and pear. Said George, “I’m very happy to have made it through to the grand finals! I was relieved when the cook off was over, but I felt confident. I’m just happy to have made it this far.”

Michael Notman-Watt’s menu was praised for its surprisingly good flavours combinations starting with a delicious starter of foraged gems, including cobnuts and apples, from the Wiston Estate and smoked and roasted beetroot from Nama Yasai Farm. The star of his main course was lamb from Saddlescombe Farm and his dessert cleverly married three of his favourite things in life, doughnuts, tea and gin. Said Michael, “I’m surprised and delighted with this result! I felt confident going in and although a few things went wrong during the course of the 90 minutes, I pulled it back and came through in the end. I’m now looking forward to the banquet.”

Reigning Sussex Young Chef of the Year champion, Michael Sutherland was back competing for the title for the third year running, he was a Grand Finalist in 2016 before winning the 2017 title. Once again he clearly impressed the judging panel this year with another stunning menu of chestnut mushrooms and garlic to start, locally caught Pollock for main and a sublime dessert of white chocolate, pistachio and cherry to finish. Said Michael, “I didn’t expect to get through this year. I’m keeping an open mind about it but I know I really did my best. Having been to the banquet before I’m looking forward to it; it’s a great night!”

Nationally acclaimed chef and guest judge, Matt Gillan said, “I’m delighted to have been asked back as part of the judging panel again this year. The standard has been incredibly high this year and I’ve been so impressed with what I have seen today.”

“To put your own thoughts down on paper and bring them to life under pressure isn’t easy. The Sussex Food and Drink Awards are a great platform in this tough industry and this competition offers a fantastic opportunity for these young chefs to put their own menus to the test. It is designed to encourage all of them to have a real sense of ownership and achievement at a young age and moving forwards this really does have a huge impact on them.”

Other categories in these sought-after awards include best Sussex eating experience, food producer, drink producer, farmer, food shop, butcher, farmers market, newcomer and street food vendor. Grand Finalists in all remaining categories will be announced in November and all the winners will be revealed on 7 February 2018 at a BAFTA-style ceremony hosted by awards patron, Sally Gunnell OBE and Danny Pike from BBC Sussex. Tickets for the ceremony are now on sale and include a spectacular seven-course Sussex produce banquet produced by Sodexo Prestige at the Amex Stadium.

For more information about the awards and ticket sales go to www.sussexfoodawards.biz

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