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

The Staff Canteen

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

I recently had the opportunity to visit Orkney, a beautiful island just off the northeastern coast of Scotland. The trip was organised by Seafood From Scotland – a project aimed at popularising Scottish produce and it was such an amazing experience.

A group of us flew from London to Kirkwall airport in Scotland where we had to board a boat to get to the small but beautiful island. It was there where I got to experience some of the best produce I have ever tasted, I’m not even kidding, the produce was fantastic!

We got to eat these scallops that were cooked in clay pot, nothing else, and they were amazing! Truly the best I have ever tasted in my whole career!

As I mentioned earlier the trip was set up by Seafood From Scotland whose aim is to showcase Scottish produce, especially more throughout the UK because that’s where they rely on a lot of their business. I know I keep saying it but one thing I was truly mesmerised by was the quality of the produce, it’s just absolutely amazing!

The project started last year and I think it’s going to turn into an annual thing that will happen year-on-year.

My favourite part by far was the fishing and then getting to try the produce in a clay pot with no cutlery felt really old school but it was great, definitely the best part of the experience for me.

So, obviously the next National Chef of the Year competition isn’t too far away, scary! So I was excited to see the mystery box of ingredients had been revealed! My sous chef, Kamil is one of the finalists so it was good to give him, and the rest of the contestants, a glimpse at the produce so they can figure out what they might want to do with it.

I really was pleasantly surprised by how beautiful the produce was on the list, there really are some quality ingredients on there which should make for some excellent dishes. The chefs should find it all fairly easy to use as well.

I think Kamil was pretty impressed too! The good thing this year is that the suppliers have really backed the competition offering up some premium produce. It really does make a difference and for me it’s all about the produce. When you have a good product you are starting with a good foundation. If you start with an average product you have to throw out so many techniques and ingredients to make it stand out and get something out of it. So it was nice to see all the suppliers had put some good produce in there for the contestants.

Kamil probably has an idea of what he wants to do with the produce but I’m not getting involved. I’m there to mentor him but I can’t tell him what to do, it would defeat the whole purpose of the competition. He has to be able to cook what he wants to cook in two hours, it has nothing to do with me. It’s about him and what he wants to showcase to the judges. I know he’ll knock it out of the park though.

I recently got invited to a mentor day, it was pretty full on. We gave the finalists the rules and procedures, contact details for ordering produce, and what time and date they need the menus by. They also got choose the crockery they wish to use as well as getting to meet the suppliers which I think is really important as you get to see the quality of the produce the competitors will be using on the day. So it really does make a difference for them when it comes to the cooking element.

You probably remember I mentioned the new Sunday sittings in my last couple of blogs, well we had our first one this month and I’m thrilled to say that it went brilliantly! On the first Sunday we only did the dinner service but we had 60 covers booked for lunch the following Sunday and another 60 for the Sunday after that! And dinner is around 50 covers so it almost feels like Christmas has come early for me and the team!

What I would say is that if anyone wants to come in to try the beef wellington it’s the only day it’s on the menu so it’s the perfect time for anyone wanting to come in and try one of Gordon’s signature dishes.

So that’s probably it for now but as you all know I finally have my trip to Denmark next month which I’m super excited about! I’ll be going to Noma and Geranium so I’m really excited to see what it’s about and to experience a different style of cooking in a different country. I’m also really looking forward to building a network with the team there so that one day I can send one of my chefs over there for some experience. So I can’t wait to let you know how it all goes in my next blog with The Staff Canteen.

>>> 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.

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th September 2016

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