Chef John Williams on who should be Chef of the Year and his menu for the AA Hospitality Awards 2019

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st September 2018

In 2017, John Williams MBE, executive chef of The Ritz London, was crowned the AA Chef of the Year. He said it was ‘one of the biggest shocks’ and this year it’s his turn to cook for the 1000 guests who will be attending the AA Awards at the Grosvenor House on September 24.

The Staff Canteen caught up with him to find out what he will be cooking and which chefs he thinks should be the new Chef of the Year at the AA Hospitality Awards 2019.

john williams aa win

"When it’s your peers who vote for you

it’s quite special."

John Williams MBE

“It was one of the biggest shocks and I didn’t have a clue until they read out ‘he was the son of a South Shields fisherman’ and I said ‘Jesus Christ!’, laughed John as he talked about the moment his name was announced as last year’s Chef of the Year.

“When it’s your peers who vote for you it’s quite special. It was a great shock but one which was very humbling and one I was very proud to receive.” 

He will be handing over the title and he has his money on four chefs to take this year’s award. He said: “I could pull out four names who are very worthy of the title and I’d find it difficult to say just one. So, my choices would be Sat Bains, Claude Bosi, Jason Atherton and David Everitt-Matthias.

“They are great cooks in this country.”

When you win Chef of the Year the first thing everyone says is ‘well what are you going to cook next year?’. And it was no different for John, despite working in a hotel he says he has a favourite number of covers which is why he’s never worked in bigger establishments.

He explained: “My favourite number, and I’ve always said this, is 200 covers – I’ve always been able to control that very well.

“I don’t believe you can control the functions in the same fashion once you get to 400 or 500. Once you get to a 1000 it’s very difficult indeed!”

The Ritz Cookbook cover low res

The main course is fillet steak

which is from

The Ritz cookbook

Working closely with Nigel Boschetti and the team at Grosvenor House was key to overcoming the number of covers and John will be serving a salmon tart which will be lightly smoked and flavoured with citrus zest and he’ll be adding crème fraiche with some verbena gel.

For main is fillet steak which is from The Ritz cookbook, served with morels, button onions and a rich red wine jus. And some good, old-fashioned game chips!

The dessert is a chocolate dessert with fudge, which he says is like a chocolate bar.

John said: “I put a few dishes together, we cooked a couple of things and immediately Nigel would draw my attention to issues I would not have noticed, such as a draft as you enter the ballroom and I had small loose herbs on a dish – they were flying off!”

He laughed: “I wouldn’t have thought of that in a 100 years!”

John says he simplified everything and is focusing on the product.

“Hopefully we will manage all of these things and it will all come out together,” he said. “That’s the hope, that’s the desire but you know what it’s like on the night!”

He will have a team of ten chefs with him on the night but will he be leaving them to it and taking a seat in the dining room?

“No! I’m not that kind of chef. I’m getting on a bit but I’m the kind of person who when I say I’ll do something I like to be there amongst it.”

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st September 2018

Chef John Williams on who should be Chef of the Year and his menu for the AA Hospitality Awards 2019