National Chef of the Year 2013: Hayden Groves - The Halibut King

The Staff Canteen

This is the first in a series of regular blogs by executive chef of BaxterStorey and winner of National Chef of the Year 2013, Hayden Groves. 

For those in the know Magnus Skretting is often referred to as the ‘Halibut King’. Back in February one of my prizes for winning the National Chef of the Year 2013 was a study trip to Norway. I was lucky enough to not just meet the man himself, a member of the flat fish royalty, but take a tour of his business situated in the cold clear deep fjords of Ryfylke near Stavenger

Hayden Groves, Fjord HQ
Hayden Groves, Fjord HQ

I was joined on this two day Nordic adventure by good friend and fellow National Chef of the Year winner, Alyn Williams; David Mulcahy, vice-president of the Craft Guild of Chefs and NCOTY organiser, as well as Paul Brown and Anthony Ward (MD and marketing director of CCS) who sponsored our trip to Figgjo. 

Day one of our trip was spent visiting the Figgjo factory, lunch with Charles Tjessem (Bocuse D’or 2003 winner) at his restaurant followed by Dinner at Kjartan Skjelde’s Tango restaurant. On day two we were ready for a bit of fresh Nordic air.

A 45-minute boat trip took us to the Norwegian Sterling white halibut farm in Vassvik and Kjeurda in Hjelmeland, Ryfylke - luckily I am only typing these place names rather than trying to pronounce them.

The journey there was an experience in itself – dramatic scenery, light snow flurries and a low fog blanketing the tops of the surrounding hills. Magnus explained that the Broodstock and fryplant is on the Reipholmen in Rørvik in Nord-Trøndelag county, or to you and me - bang in the middle of Norway! As you can imagine this carefully controlled egg and hatching stage is critical. If a mistake is made at this point it can take up to five years when the halibut reach maturity that it is noticed.

During these five years the halibut grow to an average of five to eight kilograms and with over 2500 fish in a 24-metre square pen and 20 metres in depth. My first thoughts were that there wouldn’t be much room but, as confirmed on the halibut TV cam in the office, they all had plenty of space to swim around.

Salmon Plant, Hayden Groves
Salmon plant 

For lunch, naturally halibut was the dish of the day.  Super fresh with food miles that you could count on one hand, beautiful yet simply cooked with large moist flavourful chunks.   While we were on the Fjords we also had an opportunity to view fish farming on a much larger scale, a chance visit to a salmon farm which shared the same stretch of water.

Their production was on a mind-blowing scale.  In just 4 days they process the equivalent weight of a whole year’s halibut.  If you can envisage seeing 250,000 kilos of fish a day being sucked up direct from the fjord by what can only be described as a ‘Dyson Salmon hoover’, and then processed, this was a real eye-opener for us all.

They have even discovered a way to make money out of the waste - 16,000 litres of an Iron Bru-coloured salmon oil, which was sold on to a cosmetic and health supplement market. Sterling white Halibut are sold throughout the world and were the first branded fish of choice in 2010 for the Bocuse d’Or, a competition which is recognised as the ultimate haute cuisine challenge - you could say the unofficial World Cup for Chefs.   

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


Hayden Groves Hayden Groves is the current Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year, having won last year’s competition at the Restaurant Show in October. He is the executive chef at contract caterers BaxterStorey previously having worked as the executive chef for Lloyds of London. Hayden Groves joins a long line of great chefs to have won the prestigious award including Gordon Ramsay, David Everitt-Matthias, Simon Hulstone, Mark Sargeant, Steve Love, Alyn Williams and many more.



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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 15th April 2014

National Chef of the Year 2013: Hayden Groves - The Halibut King