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

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st October 2016

This is the last in a series of regular blogs by head chef of Petrus, holder of one Michelin star in the Michelin Guide UK 2017 and winner of National Chef of the Year 2016, Larry Jayasekara.

So this is the last of  my blog posts with The Staff Canteen and what can I say about winning the 2016 National Chef of the Year except it's been a great year and earning this title means a great deal for me, to join all those other big names, you just can’t take that away.

Winning the competition has been one of my biggest achievements, I mean cooking for 30 Michelin star chefs is huge and then to be declared the winner was just fantastic! It will definitely go down as being one of my biggest achievements for both me and my career.

Competitions like this are great for the industry, I'm Head Chef at Petrus now and it's the first year I've been there to be awarded a Michelin star so that's a fantastic feeling! With this competition you really do get industry recognition, chefs know you and they know you as National Chef of the Year.

I think chefs from any sector of the industry should enter National Chef of the Year, it doesn’t matter whether they’re from cafés, pubs, contact catering, hotels, Michelin starred restaurants etc. they should all enter because at the end of the day it’s a competition for everybody and if you want to put your skills to the test in front of a lot of good chefs this is the competition for you. It’s also a great personal achievement. It’s also important because you get to network, you get to meet people, a lot of important people in the industry and you get a lot of advice from the top guys in the industry. So it’s not just a competition, it’s about shaping your career, at the same time you might get a job with one of those guys and they remember you and the way you cook because when you go for a job you never get the opportunity to show how good you can be and what you cook so they will remember you when you’re at a job interview.

If you have read any of my previous blogs you will know that I had a trip to Noma and Geranium planned as part of winning the competition. Well we didn’t go to Noma and Geranium in the end, unfortunately Noma was closed on the day we went and there was just no availability at Gernaium to fit all eight of us, so instead we went to Substans and Alcehmist, the chef there used to be Head Chef at Noma. It was a fantastic experience; it’s a completely different style of food and a different way of cooking. They cook with a lot of fermented  and raw, natural ingredients which we really don’t use that much over here. One of the courses at Alchemist was woodlouse in Tum Yum soup. They line the woodlouse in the bowl and pour the hot soup over them so they go crispy. So the texture was really crispy but with a nutty flavour. I was never told I would eat woodlice but I gave it a go nonetheless. Another course was lamb heart tartare. The sauce was lamb blood made with jelly so it was different, not necessarily something I would order at a restaurant but it was a good experience getting to try something you wouldn’t normally get to try otherwise.

The people at Substans and Alchemist were really lovely, down-to-earth people who were willing to share knowledge and details with us. I will definitely keep in contact with everyone because it’s just a different way of cooking we don’t get to experience over here and it’s so nice to see different styles of cooking and to learn more about it. I think it’s a big eye opener, not just for me but for any chef to go over there and see how they do things. I noticed there’s a lot of picklng and fermented stuff going on which is beautifully done and when you think about it is really healthy so it was really good.

So now, after 12 months, it's time to pass my baton onto the next winner of National Chef of the Year. It really has been a great year and I haven't regretted a single moment of it, I don't think I could go through all of that again though! It's a great experience but it really does take a lot of dedication and now I'm just looking to the future. I'm putting my all into my second home, Petrus and just making it better and better.  

>>> Read more blogs from Larry Jayasekara here

Larry Jayasekara is the National Chef of the Year 2016, having won the competition at the Restaurant Show in October, 2015. 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.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st October 2016

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