The Association of Catering Excellence’s annual Ready Steady Cook competition was held on Thursday 20th September at East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf, London. Launched in 1998, the competition has been going for 20 years.
As well as the overall winners, ACE continues to encourage up and coming young talent in the foodservice sector with the Young Chef Award. Each team included a chef aged 26 or under, many of whom were apprentices.
Overall competition winners were Lewis Linley and Gemma Vardon from Vacherin with a winning menu of roast pigeon, pancetta, sweet potato, broccoli cous cous, pickled blackberries, and sweet potato crisps followed by a dessert of almond financier, orange, roast fig and honey and yoghurt espuma, almond crumb.
Lewis said: “We hoped to see some seasonal ingredients as we had been practising some ideas, so we were pleased to see the choices we had.”
Team mate Gemma added: “We were really honoured to be chosen to represent Vacherin, and to actually win was amazing.”
Looking out for the young chefs on the judging panel was 22 year old Ruth Hansom. Ruth was the first ever female winner of Young National Chef of the Year, and is currently head chef at Luton Hoo.
Also on the judging panel were Steven Lickley who was a Ready Steady Cook winner in 2015 and Masterchef finalist in 2016 and Daniel Ayton, Senior Vice President of World Masterchefs and member of Reunion Gastronomes and Chaine GB.
The Young Chef Award was won by 20 year old Felicia Amofah from Blue Apple. She has been with the company for 7 months, having been encouraged to cook by her dad (a chef manager).
Felicia said: “My cooking partner, Pete lives and works in Coventry so I’ve been up there a few times so we could practise cooking together.”
Judge Ruth Hansom said: “I agreed to judge the competition and become involved in ACE as I think it’s really important to have a mix of ages in organisations like this to inspire young people to join the industry. I like the fact the teams include a mentor and a younger person, it’s good to see them working together.”
The teams of two had just thirty minutes to plan and prepare a main course and dessert in front of a live audience of over 250. The ingredients were revealed to them half an hour before so quick thinking and planning was essential in order to submit their competition menu. The main items were wood pigeon, pancetta, chicken livers and pork fillet with a range of store cupboard ingredients, fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits. The ingredients were supplied by British Premium Meats, 4degC and kff.
Competing from across the foodservice industry were Bartlett Mitchell, BaxterStorey, Blue Apple, CH&Co, Gather & Gather, Genuine Dining Company, Graysons, Green and Fortune, HIT, Holroyd Howe, ISS Food & Hospitality, Lexington, Restaurant Associates, and Vacherin. Gather & Gather, Graysons and Green and Fortune were all new to the competition this year.
Lexington were in second place, and in third place were Restaurant Associates.
Judge Daniel Ayton said: “The dishes they turn out in just 30 minutes continue to amaze me. We were looking for teamwork, planning and organisation as well as flavours and presentation.”
Every chef in the competition was given a personalised Bragard chef jacket, sponsored by CEDA and a goody bag from prize sponsor Collins King.
ACE has supported the Wiggly Worm charity for three years and over £500 raised by the raffle will be donated to them as well as the chopping boards and pans, which were provided by Nisbets. The charity inspires and educates vulnerable and disadvantaged people to give them opportunities to work with food.
Leftover food ingredients will be distributed by City Harvest to organisations that help homeless people in London.
Our photographer captured the excitement of the event brilliantly! Have a look at the gallery here – you may recognise some of the faces… Click here to view the photos.
Click here to view the video highlights.
Click here to view a video featuring our chosen charity The Wiggly Worm.
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