The Roux Scholarship 2017 final six: Matthew Whitfield

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 5th April 2017

The final of the Roux Scholarship 2017 will be held at Westminster Kingsway College on April 10 and there are six regional finalists all hoping to take this year's crown, one of which is Matthew Whitfield.

In a special briefing by the judges, 30 minutes before the start of the competition, the finalists are given the recipe and ingredients for a main dish, either classic or modern and asked to prepare and present it. The Staff Canteen spoke to each finalist to find out more about them and what The Roux Scholarship means to them - next up is Matthew Whitfield.

Matthew Whitfield started his culinary career studying Catering at Eastleigh College, Southampton, while working in his family pub’s kitchen. He went on to work at Michelin starred Montagu Arms with 2005 Roux Scholar Matthew Tomkinson. Matt joined Marco Pierre White’s group before returning to Montague Arms as junior sous chef. Moving to Brussels, Matt worked his way from junior sous chef to sous chef at two Michelin star Seagrill. Coming back to the UK, he settled into The Driftwood Hotel, Cornwall, where he was promoted to be head chef last year.

WATCH LIVE:

To find out which chef wins tune in at 7pm on 10th April to watch The Roux Scholarship Award ceremony LIVE via www.rouxscholarship.co.uk, YouTube and Twitter 

Who or what influences you most in cooking? And how would you describe your style?

I am a big fan of classic cooking with a modern twist – modernised classical cooking. I like to relate to what’s on the plate. I don’t like things to mess around with. I enjoy nice simple food with a little bit of excitement.

Why did you enter the Roux Scholarship again?

I entered in 2011 and 2012 – I was the youngest that could do it the first time. I gave it a good go, and it didn’t go badly but I didn’t get through to the national finals. I got some feedback, which was good to hear, and I felt that I wasn’t quite ready. I went away and worked hard in different establishments. I concentrated on learning and proving myself, so I gave it another go this year. I am 28 now, so I could enter again next year, but I thought “now’s the time”. I’ve got complete support from my boss and the company, so why not give it a go?

Le Gavroche is celebrating 50 years this year and has been the training ground for a number of amazing chefs, how influential have the Rouxs been to you as a chef even before the competition?

Matthew Whitfield (2) low res
Matthew Whitfield

Massively – it’s something that I’ve always been interested in. They’ve just changed cooking in England. They put England on the map for food and it’s an incredible thing to be a part of. I’ve got so many of their books and I can always relate to. You can always go back to the books to get inspiration from them. It’s an incredible thing. They influenced my first head chef Matthew Tomkinson, so much so he went on and won the 2005 Roux Scholarship. He encouraged me to do it and that’s how my journey started in the scholarship.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself that people may not know.

I’m a big boxing fan.

How do you prepare for a competition like the Roux Scholarship and do you have any ‘good luck’ rituals or charms?

Not really. The things that I get stress about and find hard is the preparation because in the regionals you had to bring all your equipment. That’s the bit I find quite difficult. I write checklists after checklists and even if it’s right, I have to write it again to freshen my mind. I just learn everything I can about the dishes. I do random testings on desserts and stuff like that so I can have time for my dishes. As long as I do that and when I actually get to the competition and set my section up exactly how I want it – my pots in a certain area, my knives in a certain area – then I will relax. I will enjoy it. That’s exactly what I did in the regionals and, to be honest, during the actual cooking part, I was very relaxed. I was talking to the judges about my dish and my ingredients. I had a great time doing it. If you’re going to do stuff like this you don’t know if you’re going to get the opportunity again, so you might as well enjoy it, and that’s what I did.

What are your plans for the future?

I would like to go away and work in America with my girlfriend, one last thing before I do something on my own. My goal is to become a standalone head chef in an establishment that wins or would win a Michelin star. Eventually, I want to move on to my own restaurant and gain two Michelin stars. That’s my ultimate goal.

>>> Read more about this year's Roux Scholars

by Thao Ly Nguyen

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 5th April 2017

The Roux Scholarship 2017 final six: Matthew Whitfield