National Chef of the Year 2016: Larry Jayasekara, July 2016

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th July 2016

This is the fifth in a series of regular blogs by head chef of Petrus and winner of the National Chef of the Year 2016, Larry Jayasekara.

In my last blog I mentioned my invite to the Craft Guild of Awards by David Mulcahy, Vice-President of the Craft Guild of Chefs, to present an award. It was such an honour to be asked back and to present the Young Chef Award but I was a bit nervous at first, it’s the first time I have ever done anything like that so I didn’t really know what to expect but it was a good experience.

I stayed for the whole evening and got to meet so many people from within the industry. I won the Young Chef Award almost 10 years ago now when I was senior chef de partie at the Savoy Grill so it was great to see so many different faces this time round. It definitely brought back a few memories from when I was there all those years ago!

Last time I was also really excited to announce my new masterclasses being held at Petrus over the summer! Unfortunately the first one, which was due to happen at the beginning of the month, had to be cancelled due to some family issues concerning one of the guests but they have all been invited back to attend my next masterclass in August.  

I’m really looking forward to that one because I’m going to be showing them how to recreate one of our signature dishes here at Petrus, the beef wellington. When cooked properly, beef wellington can taste phenomenal and I’m ecstatic to be able to teach them how we make it because for me it’s all about taste, not just how pretty or dramatic it looks.

We’re also looking at holding the masterclasses every first Sunday of the month now and starting in September we will be open for Sunday lunch and dinner. Although, instead of your typical Sunday roast, we will be serving the beef wellington with some lovely jus, a little truffle, crispy puff pastry, etc. which is really exciting because now guests can come and experience the dish that they wouldn’t normally be able to try if they can’t make it during the week. Understanding that beef wellington might not be to everyone’s taste, we will also be serving the regular menu as an alternative so there will definitely be something for everyone.

I’m also extremely excited to have Kamil Wierzbowski make it through to the finals of the National Chef of the Year competition! It was fantastic hearing the news he had made it through as it’s a really tough competition and I should know! Especially this year as they have increased the number of finalists that can make it through. It only used to be seven but this year there’s 10 in the final so the competition is a lot tougher. There are just so many quality, high standard chefs going through so Kamil definitely has his work cut out for him! I was one of the judges at the semi-finals and the quality of food they produced was astonishing! I asked not to judge Kamil though as it wouldn’t have been fair to the other contestants.

It’s all about practice and he has a lot of hard work ahead of him if he’s going to make it to the top three and bring that trophy back home, that’s the goal! Unfortunately we can’t really practice right now because we don’t know what’s going to be in the mystery box of ingredients. You don’t get to find that out until roughly two weeks beforehand so there’s not a lot we can do training wise until then.

But aside from the experience the most important thing for him is just to enjoy it and to get to meet all these new people outside of the kitchen to see what they are up to, they’re organisational skills, how they manage flavour combinations, etc. So there’s always something to learn and look forward to, it’s not all about winning (although I can’t stress it enough, I want that trophy back where it belongs!). It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to cook for 30-35 Michelin star chefs so they all need to make it worthwhile and say to themselves ‘this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m going to go for it.’

As Kamil’s mentor my job is to guide him and give my advice, I don’t want to take over as he won’t learn from the experience. I’m just teaching him it’s all about how he wants to cook the dish, it’s not down to me or anyone else I’m just offering my opinion and if you can’t perform on the day, even the best chef in the world will fail.

Aside from the new summer menu, which is now available to view on the website, we’re also looking at introducing two separate game and truffle menus.

As game doesn’t really start until August 12 we’re looking at getting the menu ready for early September as it’ll just be too fresh in August, it really needs to be hung for 10-12 days. The menu will also incorporate grouse, veal, venison, woodcock, whatever I can get my hands on really! For me cooking red meat requires a lot more skill and it’s all about what skills I can pass on to these guys because one day when they’re ready to leave Petrus they will be able to cook a woodcock, which not a lot of chefs actually know how to cook or what it is, so I really want to bring that back. Its old school but I want to give them that experience and foundation. More chefs are going for gastronomical cooking nowadays but I want to provide them with the classic foundations that they can go away with.

The truffle menu on the other hand will be a little bit more theatrical and won’t be introduced until October. Truffles will be taken to the table where the guest will be able to take as much as they like throughout their meal and at the end of the meal they will be charged for it by the gram. So we will weigh it at the start of the meal and again at the end to find out exactly how much has been taken so we can charge them accordingly. It’ll be a great opportunity for the customer to enjoy truffles the way they are meant to be eaten.

>>> Read more blogs from Larry Jayasekara here

Larry Jayasekara is the National Chef of the Year, having won the competition at the Restaurant Show in October. He is head chef of Gordon Ramsay's Michelin Star restaurant Pétrus and previously worked as executive chef for the Manor at Weston-on-the-Green, sous chef at Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, senior sous chef at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, and spent two years at the Waterside Inn in Bray. Larry joins a long line of great chefs to have won the prestigious award including Gordon Ramsay, David Everitt-Matthias, Simon HulstoneMark SargeantSteve LoveAlyn Williams and many more.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th July 2016

National Chef of the Year 2016: Larry Jayasekara, July 2016