Russell Bateman on his 12 months as National Chef of the Year 2014

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 2nd October 2015

It’s been 12 months since Russell Bateman, head chef at Colette's Restaurant, The Grove, Hertfordshire, was crowned National Chef of the Year 2014.

He talks to The Staff Canteen about his year, the opportunities winning the title has given him and why he would encourage other chefs to enter the competition.

Russell-Bateman-crowned-National-Chef-of-the-Year

Russell Bateman

crowned National Chef of the Year 2014

Winning National Chef of the year has always been a goal for Russell and it was the second year he had entered the competition when he managed to get his hands on the title. He beat seven other talented chefs in the process and says he ‘wanted to be regarded as on the same level as the people who had won it in the past’.

Even though it is a competition Russell didn’t enter to compete against his peers, he said: “I don’t see it as competing against other people, I see it as competing with them. They are on the same path as you and along the way you actually find you help each other, talk to each other and educate one another. I think the only person you’re competing against in that kind of competition, ultimately, is yourself.”

By winning the competition, Russell joined some of industry’s most celebrated chefs, many with Michelin stars. Past winners include Gordon Ramsay, Mark Sargeant, David Everitt-Matthias, Lou Jones, Bruce Sangster, Simon Hulstone and Alyn Williams. It also opened a lot of doors, Russell explained: “I’ve met a lot of people, done some good events and obviously more people know who I am and what I do. Also within my own company and my own business people regard me in a different way because of it.”

There have been a number of opportunities for the chef throughout the year one of which was doing a pop up at Selfridges last month, but he says there have been numerous highlights.

Russell Bateman at The Staff Canteen Live
Russell Bateman at The Staff Canteen Live

“I loved going to Vila Vita in Portugal,” said Russell. “And I’ve enjoyed all the demos I’ve had the opportunity to do.”

This year Russell was part of the mentor day for candidates at Unilever where he did a demonstration with Alyn Williams. He will be at the final but as a spectator and having been on the other side last year he knows what the judges will be looking for.

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

He said: “The judges will be looking for flavour, technical ability, delivering food on time and in a professional manor. I don’t think it’s you are going to win National Chef of the year and that’s it, I think you represent the Craft Guild of Chefs for the whole year and for the future as well. So they want you to be someone they can hang their hat on and say ‘yes we are proud they are our National Chef of the Year’.”

In just a few days there will be a new champion, so what advice does Russell have for them as they start their 12 month journey?

“Enjoy it!” Said Russell. “Don’t take everything too seriously, enjoy your time as National Chef of the Year – you’re the only one! There are a lot of people wanting to be on that path you are on so make the most of it.
Take every opportunity that you can to meet people and to cook for people.”

>>> Read more about Russell Bateman here

Russell Bateman by John Arandhara Blackwell1

Russell Bateman

by John Arandhara Blackwell

He added: “There’s a huge amount of people in this industry who think competitions are stupid, pointless and old hat or a bit of a joke. But the reality is, in this competition you are standing there on your own, you have to cook three courses of four plates within two hours from scratch – that’s a challenge.

"I don’t believe that every chef in this country would be able to do that and sometimes I think people are dismissive of competitions because they couldn’t do it or they are scared of them. This competition is something real chefs should embrace and get involved in, it can really help their career and give them confidence too.”

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

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 2nd October 2015

Russell Bateman on his 12 months as National Chef of the Year 2014