Meet the British Culinary Federation Chef of the Year finalists 2016

The  Staff Canteen
The final of the British Culinary Federation (BCF) Chef of the Year 2016 takes place on April 11. We take a closer look at the ten finalists who will battle it out at the University College Birmingham and will be judged by two Michelin-starred chefs Sat Bains and Ashley Palmer-Watts and executive pastry chef at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Benoit Blin. John Grabecki low resJohn Grabecki, 24, is head chef at BNY Mellon, London. Starting his career in St Albans, John took a leap into London in order to fulfill his dream of working in a Michelin-starred restaurant. John gained experience at Galvin at Windows, before moving on to Roux at Parliament Square under chef Steve Groves. John progressed to Senior Chef De Partie at L'Autre Pied under Andy McFadden, which he describes as ‘by far the toughest test of my career to date’. Looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, with better hours, John moved to BNY Mellon. Becoming head chef gave John more responsibilities and he enjoys being able to create his own dishes. Last year, John was the Sausage Roll Off Champion 2015. This year, he is in a finalist in the British Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year competition. He said: “I entered the British Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year because it's a great competition. Over the years it's had some really great chefs come through it and I wanted to be part of it. The chance of getting into the English National Team was very appealing to me. It felt amazing getting through to the final, especially since I found out Sat Bains, my chef idol, will be judging. No pressure, then!” Mathew Shropshall is Chef Lecturer at University College BirminghamMathew Shropshall low res After training to be a professional chef, Mathew juggled studying a Higher National Diploma in Hospitality Business with part time work in hotels and gastro pubs. For the last fifteen years, Mathew has mentored young chefs through culinary competitions, whilst achieving over 200 hospitality and catering awards himself. Before starting his teaching career at University College Birmingham in 1999, Mathew was chef patron and Licensee at X alongside working within new product development for M&S, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and other Foodservice brands. He said: “I have entered the BCF Chef of the Year competition since it started and before that the MAC Chef of the year, which means it’s my 7th/8th time in the competition (16 years), continually competing and pushing myself to improve is the main reason I enter. “Being in the final is fantastic, all of the chefs are very talented and produce quality food. Making the final as a chef lecturer allows me to maintain that link between industry fashions and educational standards while updating my skills and style of cooking as a chef." Martin Corabett low res Martin Carabott, 26, is sous chef at Royal Automobile Club’s Great Gallery in London Martin started cooking professionally in 2006 working in a four star hotel in his hometown of Malta while studying at the Institute of Tourism. Coming to Britain for the first time during his studies to work at Gleneagles Hotel, Martin was welcomed back after his graduation, winning the Skills for Chefs competition in 2010. His first taste of London came soon afterwards when he moved to Apsley’s, where he worked his way up to become a chef de partie in the kitchen of Michelin-starred chef Heinz Beck. Martin has been at the Royal Automobile Club’s Great Gallery since November 2012, originally as a chef de partie before moving up to junior sous chef and then sous chef in 2014, a position he currently holds. While at the club Martin has spent a week staging at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saison and has been encouraged to enter a number of competitions such as last year’s National Chef of the Year where he came in third place and the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Annual Awards of Excellence in 2014. He said: “I entered BCF Chef of the Year as I want to see where I stand with other chefs in the country. It is a great learning experience exposing me to other cooking styles and techniques and receiving feedback on my own, from established and highly successful chefs.”   Byron Franklin is head chef at Clare College, Univeristy of CambridgeByron Franklin low res Before joining Clare College as head chef, 32 year-old Byron started off his career training at Cambridge regional college and working in various restaurants in and around Cambridge. Byron is no stranger to competing; he was a finalist in the BCF Chef of the Year competition in 2012 and entered again in 2014 where he made it to runner up. He was awarded the coveted Gold Medal at The University Caterers Competition (TUCO) in 2014 where he represented the University of Cambridge in The Chef’s Challenge Team Event. He said: “I am very excited about getting to the final and getting to cook against some excellent competition and being able to cook for some of the country’s best chefs. I’m looking forward to the final and am hoping to go one better than 2014 after coming second.” Brett Connor low resBrett Connor, Swinfen Hall, Staffordshire Brett Connor, 28, is currently working as a sous chef at Swinfen Hall. He said: "I entered BCF Chef of the Year as a platform to showcase my style of food and what I've learnt over the past 12 years and cook for and against some talented chefs and people I look up to." Brett trained at Birmingham College of Food (now UCB) and worked and trained in kitchens such as Hampton Manor (Peels Restaurant) with Martyn Pearn, Restaurant 23 with Peter Knibb (and fellow competitor Andy Wright!) and Mallory Court with Simon Haigh and Paul Foster. He added: "I'm looking forward to the finals, not to nervous just yet but I'm sure that will change! I'm just excited to get going and I'm look forward to cooking for the judges whilst trying to get the most out of the experience and opportunity." Jamie Park, Adam Handling at Caxton, LondonJamie Park low res Jamie's first 'real job' was at The Pipe and Glass where he worked for James Mackenzie for 18 months, followed by 2 years at Middlethorpe Hall and Spa with Nick Evans until September 2014 when he came to London to work for Adam Handling after meeting him earlier that year at the final of BCF. He said: "You could say it's come full circle. It's a great competition with a great history and excellent sponsors. I'm very much looking forward to competing against some great chefs at the final."           Richard Cullen, Cullen’s Restaurant, StaffordshireRichard Culler low res Richard, 30, is chef/patron of Cullens Restaurant which has been open for two and a half years. Previous to this he worked at Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, the Dorchester hotel,and he did a stage at Hibiscus when they where in Ludlow. He ran the family restaurant for a number of years and he has been involved in the Roux Scholarship a few times. He said: "I entered the competition because I have always fancied a go at it but never felt ready and also with opening my own restaurant I struggled for time. I do feel now that I’m ready and also i have a little more time for these type of things. "I'm really looking forward to the final as I enjoyed the semi and can’t wait to get stuck in. I feel now I am cooking food that I really believe in and love to cook so can’t wait." Yuni Kader low resImthiaz Kader, Hotel 41, Rubens at The Palace, London Imthiaz Kader, 43, has been head chef at numerous top London restaurants/hotels, including The Park Plaza Westminster and The Chelsea Harbour Hotel. Currently working at both Hotel 41 and Rubens at the Palace, Imthiaz has entered the competition again, having been disappointed not to win last year. He said: "My dishes are good, I've changed them a little bit. I think I've got a better chance this year than the last one. But hey, on the day, you never know what will happen." Imthiaz is a self-taught chef, who cites his grandfather as his main culinary inspiration. Despite being raised in South Africa, Imthiaz relishes the opportunity to represent Britain. "You get to represent the country in Germany if you win. It's any chefs' dream. It lights your career up after that," explained Imthiaz. Jacob Robinson low resJacob Robinson, chef de partie at Corrigans Mayfair Jacob, 21, is currently working as a chef de partie at Corrigan's Mayfair. He was a student at Derby college the roundhouse, and completed NVQ 1-3. His career first started at a restaurant near his home town of Ilkeston, Derbyshire, called the Dovecote Restaurant, at Morley Hayes golf and country club, under head chef Nigel Stuart. He said: "I first joined there aged 16 on a part time basis at the weekends while attending college Monday to Friday. After completing my second year of college, I decided to start working full time at the restaurant. "During my second year of work, I was an integral part of the team that achieved its second AA rosette. A matter of weeks later I was awarded a promotion to chef de partie at the age of 18. During my time at the Dovecote I was always very keen to eat out and experience the world of Michelin stars, something which my head chef Nigel always encouraged. After over 3 years service, I decided to move on, after being formally offered a position at Marcus, (formerly Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley) following a successful stáge at the restaurant I took the leap and moved to London." After just 9 months, Jacob moved on again, having struggling to cope with the intensity and pressure that comes with a two Michelin-starred kitchen. Jacob then had a trial at Corrigan's and has been there since August last year. "The main reason I entered the BCF Chef of the Year 2016," explained Jacob. "Was really to see where my dishes and ideas stood compared with the cooking elite in the UK. I've always wanted to succeed and receive recognition for my work, and so far so good really, by no means when I sent the paper entry for this years competition did I expect to be in the final, I'm just blown away. "I have to say though, without the support of my family, my amazing girlfriend kate, who will be my commis chef in the final, despite having never worked as a chef!!.. And my head chef Alan, reaching the final simply wouldn't have happened, I really am very grateful for everything. Fingers crossed I can do my best in the final and who knows what the result may be." Andy Wright,  Restaurant 23, in Leamington SpaAndy Wright low res Andy only returned to fine dining five years ago, having spent most of his career doing industrial work and living in Australia for a few years too. His culinary journey began in catering college, later working at the Dorchester Hotel and the Greenhouse, under Gary Rhodes, in the eighties. He spent the next twenty years doing industrial/catering work, with highlights including executive chef at British Airways. Since his return to fine dining, Andy has entered numerous national competitions, including a third place finish at the Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year Competition. Andy is relaxed about the final and said: " I didn't think I'd get through to the final" he explained, reflecting his nonchalant entry to the competition. "To tell you the truth, I had a week off over Christmas, I got really bored and [the competition] came up on my screen. So I just knocked a menu out." said Andy.
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th April 2016

Meet the British Culinary Federation Chef of the Year finalists 2016