Third time lucky as Tom wins the National Chef of Wales title

Duncan Foulkes Foulkes

Duncan Foulkes Foulkes

Other 16th February 2018

Third time lucky as Tom wins the National Chef of Wales title

It was a case of third time lucky for talented chef Tom Westerland who last night (Thursday) became the new National Chef of Wales.
Having been runner up for the title for the last two years, the 26-year-old head chef Lucknam Park Hotel, Colerne, Chippenham celebrated victory this time, but it was another exceptionally close final at the four-day Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC) held at Grwp Llandrillo Menai’s Rhos-on-Sea campus.

The final was split into two heats, with three chefs competing in each. Runners-up were Dion Wyn Jones, 30, Carden Park Hotel, Chester; Matthew Ramsdale, 25, The Chester Grosvenor, Chester; Matthew Smith, 34, Hawkstone Park Hotel, Weston-under-Redcastle, Shrewsbury; Gavin Kellett, 33, The Vine Tree, Llangattock, Crickhowell and John Quill, 45, JQ Catering Services Ltd, Barry.

“I am lost for words, to be honest,” was Westerland’s immediate reaction after receiving the dragon trophy. “Having seen everyone else’s impressive dishes, I wasn’t confident of winning and I was very nervous waiting for the result to be announced.

“This award means everything to me and it shows what three years of hard work, perseverance and development can do for you.”

He is the second chef from Lucknam Park to win the award, following in the footsteps of Ben Taylor in 2016. “I have been staring at my boss’s trophy for three years and now I have one of my own,” he added.

Having been a finalist in last year’s National Chef of the Year contest organised by the Craft Guild of Chefs, he is looking forward to competing again this year.

In addition to receiving the dragon trophy, he won a three-day, all-inclusive culinary tour with Koppert Cress in Holland, which will include a masterclass from a two-star Michelin chef, cooking in a development kitchen for the company’s chief executive and an introduction to new cress developments and Dutch cuisine new market trends.

He also received 250 worth of Churchill products and an engraved set of knives made by Friedr Dick.

His winning menu opened with a starter of Glamorgan sausage, salad of heritage beetroot, glazed pecans and beetroot ketchup. His main course was fillet of Welsh Wagyu beef, beer braised onion, cavolo nero, black trumpette, crispy onion and Lapsang souchong. Dessert was Penderyn Whisky cheesecake, Bramley apple, blackberry sorbet and hazelnut crumble.

The finalists were given three hours to prepare and cook a three-course menu for four people using Welsh ingredients wherever possible.

In a first for the National Chef of Wales final, one of chefs cooked a totally vegan menu. Gavin Kellett served a starter of Welshman’s seaweed cannelloni, Da Mhile gin caviar, sesame, kale and Blodyn Aur laverbread. Main course was potato rosti, confit leek, veloute and black garlic followed by a dessert of Gwynt y Ddraig cider panna cotta, vanilla, crumble and fermented blackberries.

Smith and Ramsdale were runners up for the second successive year. Smith served up a starter of crab and vodka melon followed by a main course of 90-day rib eye fillet, oyster espuma, smoked wild mushroom puree, pulled rib fritter, dripping potatoes, vegetables and beer jus. Dessert was ports and Hisbiscus poached pears, Per Las panna cotta, pear sponge, black pepper tuile, mascarpone ice cream and blackberry.

Ramsdale’s menu opened with roasted Anglesey scallop, caramelised cauliflower, golden raisins and chicken flavours. Main course was Loomswood duck breast, burnt onion broth, alliums and chive. Dessert was cr譥 fraiche, clementine, Halon Mon salted caramel and pistachio. Dessert was Welsh chocolate and hazelnut mousse, Halen Mon hazelnut brittle, griottine and cherry beer ice cream.

Jones’ starter was Anglesey rainbow trout, Conwy pickled crab rillettes, carrot and brown crab puree, pickled baby carrot, puffed wild rice and fresh lime. Main course was Quinta Kamado barbecued Rhug Estate organic chicken breast, Wooltons pie, roasted onion, baby leeks, wilted spinach and chicken wing jus.
Quill’s menu opened with wild mushroom and leek arancini, spiced tomato, green pesto and butternut squash. Main course was roasted fillet of Welsh Lamb, Carmarthenshire pomme Anna potatoes, roasted, roasted celeriac, beetroot crisps, mango and mint puree. He ran out of time to cook his dessert of chocolate , raspberry and pistachio tuiles with banoffee truffle and citrus coulis.

The final brought the curtain down on successful four days of competitions at the WICC, which saw 370 chefs and front of house staff compete. All the nation’s culinary competitions were brought together in one venue for the first time.

In addition to the National and Junior Chef of Wales contests, the Skills Competition Wales culinary finals and the Major International Regional Competition were held alongside the Battle for the Dragon contest between the junior national teams of Wales and England.

The awards were announced and presented at a dinner held at the Llandudno Bay Hotel, which was attended by Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs.

Mrs Griffiths stressed how important the food industry was to the Welsh economy and praised the country’s “fantastic” food and drink companies and talented chefs. She was keen to promote the range of exciting career opportunities available in the industry.

Culinary Association of Wales president Arwyn Watkins thanked the competitors, judges and sponsors for making this year’s WICC so successful, with more classes and competitors. “This week has really demonstrated what is possible when we work in partnership with like-minded people,” he said.

The WICC are organised by the Culinary Association of Wales and main sponsor is Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government’s department representing the food and drink industry.

Other sponsors include Meat Promotion Wales/Hybu Cig Cymru, Castell Howell, Major International, Harlech Foods, H. N. Nuttall, Churchill, MCS Tech, Rollergrill, Koppertcress and Dick Knives.

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