Westcountry's top chefs turn the tables to judge cook-off
Some of the Westcountry's most respected chefs used their culinary expertise for the unenviable task of selecting the South West's best chef from a host of exceptional entries.
From Michael Caines, of the prestigious two-starred Gidleigh Park, to Paul Ainsworth, who runs the successful restaurant bearing his name in Padstow, the chefs cast their eye over dishes created in a Masterchef-style cook-off for the South West Chef of the Year title.
After admitting the difficulty of the challenge, the judges eventually opted for the winning entry of roast loin of venison, squash purée, Savoy greens, red wine shallots, blackberries and girolles, followed by milk chocolate panna cotta, poached pears, chocolate powder and caramelised walnuts, cooked by Nathan Cornwell, of Lucknam Path, in Bath.
The chef, who also won the young professional class, was one of a record number of entrants who were challenged to convert a mystery box of ingredients in to two dishes.
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The finalists were all invited to Exeter College ahead of a presentation dinner at the prestigious Exeter Golf and Country Club for what was the tenth anniversary of the award.
There the perhaps even more unenviable task of providing dinner for the guests fell on the shoulders of three former winners, Matthew Downing, of Magdalen Chapter, Exeter; Tom Scade, of Tides Restaurant, Rock; and John Walton of Paul Ainsworth at Number 6.
Mr Caines said judges were impressed with the level of creativity and skill exhibited by the entrants in putting together the menus.
"Entrants put a great deal of thought into their dishes, demonstrating their skill and dedication to creating interesting and balanced menus based on the wonderful array of produce available to them here in the South West," he said. "We look forward to see what next year brings"
Other winners on the evening included, Andy Chan, from Thornbury Castle, Bristol, who was named winner of the professional class.
From the Westcountry, Maia English of The King's School, Ottery St Mary, claimed the junior title for preparing her dish of caramelised Brixham scallops with celeriac purée and crispy pancetta.
Best dish was awarded to Camilla Waite, from Paul Ainsworth at Number 6, who made a chocolate moelleux, hazelnut crumble and orange for dessert.
The winner of the South West's best dish class for home cooks was Steve Ashworth of Taunton, who cooked chicken and potato pie with kale, cider braised carrots and beetroot. While best presentation was awarded to Harriet Pecover, of Jack in the Green at Rockbeare.