Adam Bennett talks to The Staff Canteen in the run up to the Bocuse d'Or

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 2nd May 2014
By James Euinton The Bocuse d’Or might be considered the world cup of cooking, but unlike football, this year’s competition may not prove as disappointing for the UK. This year, our star striker is Coventry-born award-winning chef Adam Bennett. We caught up with Adam earlier this week while on his way to practise for the competition.   What do you think about the success of Adam Smith and Steve Love, are you excited to be working with them in future? Yes, it’s a great leap forward for the competition that we are at the stage where we are looking at candidates while the current candidates compete. They are going to get involved in what I’m doing and it will give them a flying start when they start their campaigns. When I started I had almost zero knowledge of the competition and it was a very steep learning curve. It’s going to be very helpful to them and it will be good for the chances of a result. What has the run up to the competition been like, and what have you been doing to prepare for it? There has been a stage of development where we worked on the dishes and the garnishes and that’s sort of mostly there. We start with run-throughs which take place at the University College Birmingham kitchen, which is an exact copy of the Bocuse kitchen. It’s a vital part of the process because you get to try them out in real time and in a real environment. For the past two weeks we have been doing four or five run-throughs a week, which is a five-and-a-half-hour process and it takes four hours to set it up which is quite a chunk of time. I’ve been splitting my time from doing run-throughs in the day and then going back to The Cross during the evening just to steady the ship, and make sure everything is how it should be. What has it been like trying to juggle your work at The Cross, and the competition? Adam Bennett It’s been tricky but I planned ahead and I got some support from UCB again who have been great. They allowed me to use one of their apprentices, and his role is to supervise the setting up of the next day’s run through, so while me and the commis are doing one run through, he and a team and a couple of students are getting everything prepared for the next day, which cuts my day down. Last time around, we were just doing the setup after the run through, which makes it a long day, so this time he’s doing it, which means I can shoot off back to The Cross, come in the next day and it’s all ready for me, which has really made it feasible with the help from the UCB. You won the Midlands Chef of the Year in 2005 and became a finalist in National Chef of the Year, what makes you so determined to continue competing? It’s all a bit accidental really to be honest, I started working for Andreas [Antona] when I was 35 at Simpsons in Kenilworth, and prior to that I hadn’t really done much competitions apart from student things, so I wasn’t so experienced in competitive cooking, so the only things I have done are National Chef of the Year and Midlands Chef of the Year, and most people do a lot of other stuff before they get to those bigger ones. I mostly did it because Andreas was encouraging me and when the Bocuse d’Or came up it was a bit of a slippery slope. Before I knew what the Bocuse d’Or was all about I found I was being sucked down this tube and sort of ended up doing it, so on paper I was probably not a very likely candidate for the competition. I’ve never really been involved in the British culinary team or any of that sort of stuff, so I did it and I found I sort of enjoyed it, it’s quite an adrenaline rush, so that is sort of what spurred me on to do it again. Coming fairly close to the podium made us think, should we have another bash? Do you think it’s important for other British chefs to get involved in competitive cooking? Yeah I mean it’s not for everybody, it’s one of those things where some people take very naturally to it and some do not, and there is no right or wrong way, but what I would say is, competing in competitions does make you put everything under a microscope, especially something as intense as the Bocuse d’Or That process of putting yourself and what you are producing under the microscope is good for a chef to go through. I think, as a chef, you can apply some of these things to your workplace as well and really be forensic about what you do, it is a separate world but there are some overlaps. What would a win mean for you personally and the reputation of British cuisine? We are not  even thinking about that yet, if you go into the process thinking about the result then you are just distracting yourself from what you have got to do, it’s all about you and the food, and the team, the results shouldn’t be on the top of your mind, but occasionally you daydream I suppose. I think a win would make a statement of something that we already know - we have brilliant craftsmen in this country and there are lots of people who can have a good crack at the Bocuse d’Or, I just think that we need to make a statement that we have these craftsmen here and we are proud of them. adam bennett Adam is due to compete In Stockholm on the 8th of May, and will be cooking in box 2 alongside his trusted commis chef from The Cross, Josh Allen. If you want to experience Adam’s food first hand, take a look at The Cross Pub online here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 2nd May 2014

Adam Bennett talks to The Staff Canteen in the run up to the Bocuse d'Or