National Chef of the Year 2014: Russell Bateman, May 2015

The Staff Canteen

This is the latest in a series of regular blogs by head chef of Colettes at The Grove and winner of the National Chef of the Year 2014, Russell Bateman.

What a month I’ve had since my last blog! First up was a four day study trip to Dubai, well Ras al Khaimah to be precise. About an hour’s drive north of Dubai and governed by a different Sheikh.
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This trip was one of the fantastic prizes awarded to me for winning National Chef of the Year. Organised by Continental Chef Supplies and hosted by RAK Porcelain. I was massively looking forward to the trip as I’d heard so much about the UAE and what it had to offer our industry. To be honest a big part of me was very apprehensive about going out there. It had been described many times to me as soulless and gaudy.

I thought I wasn’t going to like much at all. Not to mention the seven hour flight and the bloody hot weather. If you know me, you’ll know, I’m as English as they come! I like my numerous cups of tea and our very special English climate. So 35-40c heat is my worst nightmare! It turns out everywhere was air conditioned so that was no worries, the plane was half empty so plenty of space and they do tea, very well indeed in fact. But seriously if all the rumours have put you off going, after what I’ve seen I’d recommend it. Everyone was very friendly and super helpful.

Of the resorts that we visited none of them are what I’d describe as gaudy. Large, luxurious and spacious yes, but by no means tacky or over the top. We got to see so much in such a short space of time it was amazing; Dubai Mall, Khalifa Tower, Armani Hotel, Waldorf Astoria, Spice & Gold Souk, desert off road safari, Atlantis on the Palm, to name just a few of the spots we visited.msrin33_mscu17_mscu17m_3 low res The real reason for our visit was the RAK Porcelain Factory which was located just opposite our hotel/resort in Ras al Khaimah, in fact, it’s just occurred to me while writing this that RAK obviously stands for Ras al Khaimah.

The factory was vast and it was incredible to see such an operation first hand. We were walked through every stage of the plate making process and it was explained in depth. You know it’s strange we put food on plates every day and how much do we really know or understand about them or their journey to get to us? I’d recommend a plate factory tour to everyone. I won’t bang on about Dubai anymore but it’s definitely somewhere to go to if only once in your life.

I’d also like to thank the Craft Guild of Chefs and CCS for organising such an incredible and educational trip, it really was priceless. I also had an opportunity to cook abroad this month. I was invited to be a representative for England in Portugal, cooking at another wonderful resort, Vila Vita on the Algarve. Once every other year Vila Vita host a Fine Food and Wine Fair organised by their 2 Michelin star and very well respected chef, Hans Neuner.

They very kindly invited me because of our links through “Leading Hotels of the World”. In all, 26 chefs representing seven different European countries were invited to cook at the event. Every chef in Portugal with 1 or 2 stars was there to cook. I was incredibly lucky and honoured to be involved in such a high profile and exciting festival.

>>> Read more about National Chef of the Year here

I was tasked with cooking a starter for the “Kitchen Party” night. The festival actually runs across five days, with the “ Kitchen Party” as the penultimate night. The previous three nights saw Jonnie Boer, Gert De Mangeleer and Klaus Erfort, all three Michelin star chefs take control of the kitchen and deliver their food to the well-heeled Algarve audience. So no pressure for me then! The Kitchen Party was a very different affair though. There were in total 23 chefs cooking one dish each for 300 covers. It was great to see what some of the top chefs around Europe were serving and get some feedback on my dish. Incidentally I prepared an English asparagus panna cotta, diver caught scallop tartare, seasoned with its own roe, pea, cucumber and mint salad, sorrel and apple granite.

I’m pleased to say my dish was very well received by the guests and chefs alike. It was a great honour to be firstly invited but ultimately to gain the recognition of my international peers was one of the proudest moments of my career. I could talk about Vila Vita all day it was a beautiful property with a huge amount of charm and class. In a perfect location with wonderful food to boot, if you get a chance to visit go.

>>> Read more of Russell's blogs here 

Russell Bateman by John Arandhara Blackwell1

Russell Bateman is the National Chef of the Year, having won the competition at the Restaurant Show in October. He is head chef of The Grove in Hertfordshire and previously worked as head chef of The Feathers in Oxford. Russell joins a long line of great chefs to have won the prestigious award including Gordon Ramsay, David Everitt-MatthiasSimon HulstoneMark SargeantSteve LoveAlyn Williams and many more.

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Editor 21st May 2015

National Chef of the Year 2014: Russell Bateman, May 2015