Roux Scholarship reveals six national finalists for 2020-2021 competition

The Roux Scholarship

The Roux Scholarship

Premium Supplier 10th September 2021
The Roux Scholarship

The Roux Scholarship

Premium Supplier

Roux Scholarship reveals six national finalists for 2020-2021 competition

After the exciting regional finals in London and Birmingham, the Roux family is delighted to announce the names of the six chefs who will compete for the title of Roux Scholar 2020/21 on 25th October 2021.

They are:
Ryan Baker, Maison Francois
Ben Champkin, The Newt, Somerset
Nathan Cornwell, The Barn at Moor Hall, Lancashire
Jonnie Ferguson, The Raby Hunt, County Durham
Curtis Tonge, The Forge, Chester
Oli Williamson, The Fat Duck, Bray

Judging at the University of West London, 

Michel Roux Jr: “We’re happy to be back tasting some fabulous food and to finally see the chefs in action and taste the recipes we’ve sat on for the last 18 months.” Judging in at University College Birmingham, 

Alain Roux said: “When you work on a dish personally you tend to get carried away and I wonder if the competitors had eaten the finished dish, with all the necessary complements, with the sauce on the plate? Did they serve it to friends and family, or their customers to get feedback? In food, you never get 100% but the challenge is to get as many people as possible to like it and prove the dish works. For some of these dishes, the balance just wasn’t there.” 

Judging in London, Clare Smyth said: “It’s so nice to see everyone back here, doing what we love. It’s such an important competition and our industry has had such a tough time, of course for business owners, but also for young people and those starting out on their careers have missed so much. It’s so good to give them this opportunity to compete again.”

Judging in at University College Birmingham, Sat Bains: “These guys have had an extended 18 months to practice but I thought we would have got a lot better quality. We can’t emphasise enough you have to nail the dish you’ve submitted. I’m really looking forward to the final, Bjorn Frantzén is coming over and the legacy of the Rouxs lives on; whoever wins has a really exciting career ahead of them!”
Judging in at University College Birmingham, Angela Hartnett: “It’s always an honour to judge the Roux Scholarship. What is so clever is that with the mystery box for the dessert, Alain and Michel always bring it back to basics to see the true skills of these young chefs.” 

The finalists were chosen following two regional finals, which took place on Thursday 9th September at the University of West London, Ealing, and University College Birmingham. 

In Birmingham: Alain Roux, Sat Bains (Roux Scholar 1999), Simon Hulstone (scholar 2003), Angela Hartnett.
In London: Michel Roux Jr, Brian Turner, Rachel Humphrey, André Garrett (Roux Scholar 2002), Clare Smyth.

The challenge 
This year’s was to cook the recipe they submitted with their application, which uses one whole fresh gutted hake, weighing anywhere between 1.6kg – 1.8kg and 600g of live whole grooved carpet shell / palourde clams (ruditapes decussatus). They had to be plated together with two simple or composed garnishes/accompaniments. One of these had to include leeks and the other was a garnish/accompaniment of the applicant’s choice. One of these was allowed to be served separately if preferred and a sauce had to accompany the dish. The regional finalists had 2½ hrs to cook their dish, along with a dessert from a mystery box of ingredients given to them on the day. Chefs were permitted to make minor adjustments to their recipe on grounds of seasonality, as the ingredients were chosen with the original spring-time dates of the competition in mind. 

The 2021 mystery box 
The brief was to prepare a dessert for four people using the ingredients supplied.
One ingredient could be omitted but at least 50% of the following ingredients had to be used:

30ml Grand Marnier liqueur
400ml whole milk
150g caster sugar
200g plain flour
100g unsalted butter
4 Mandarin oranges
4 medium-sized Granny Smith apples
80 g mixed orange and lemon candied peel 

Quotes from the finalists:

Ben Champkin: “This is my third time in the final now and it feels amazing. I’ve been following the competition for many years and I’ve worked for previous winners, so I’ve always wanted to be there, so it feels really good to be getting another chance.”

Reserve competitor Nathan Cornwell (from The Barn at Moor Hall) was notified on Monday 6th September that he could take part in the competition after another finalist pulled out: “The last few days have just been crazy. Finding out just days ago that I could take part and going straight into it, I’ve had to focus on it after a long, long break. I’ve been looking at my notes for my recipe after service, even on the train here. To win it would be a dream.”

Oli Williamson: “This was my last chance to enter the competition because I’ve just turned 30, and this is my first time entering the competition. I’m super happy! I’ve got some work to do for the final, so it’s going to take some preparation to get ready in the next six weeks before the final.” 

Ryan Baker: “Getting in the final is what we came here to do, and that’s exactly where I want to be. I found the regional final tough, it was a really hot kitchen but I’d practiced my dish many times. The dessert just throws in that bit of mystery and affects your timings on the day. I’ve been in the final before and it’s tough, they ask everything from you, but I’m going to give it my all.” 

Jonnie Ferguson: “I really enjoyed the whole day. I’ve done competitions before and I enjoyed the whole set up; I thought it was fair and a generous amount of time, so I felt quite calm throughout the day. For the final, I’m desperate to know what we’re cooking, I’ve watched lots of the previous videos, and you can see it’s a classical approach, so I’m excited to test myself and find out how strong my skill set really is.” 

Curtis Tonge: “I found the regional final amazing, I felt really strong and really enjoyed the day as a whole. For the mystery box dessert, I cooked Grand Marnier crème brûlée with financier madeleines, with mandarin segments and zest and candied peel. I practiced a few mystery boxes and done something similar with other ingredients, so I brought the madeleine molds just in case. For the final, it’s my last chance so I’m in it to win it! I’m really excited to meet the guest judge Björn Frantzén and Clare Smyth and Michel, because I’ve never met him, and of course seeing what the recipe is. I will be doing some research on classic dishes and practicing skills.” 

Regional Prizes
Each competitor received the following gifts from our sponsors, as well as a commemorative certificate signed by all the judges:
• A set of three Global Knives.
• A cafetière pot with coffee, courtesy of L’Unico Caffé Musetti.
• A TRUEfoods notebook and tasting spoon. 
 Details of the national finalists’ prizes can be found here:

National final – Monday 25th October 2021
The six finalists will compete for the title of Roux Scholar 2020/21 in the final, which takes place at Westminster Kingsway College, London. This time the recipe details will be a complete surprise; 30 minutes before the start of the competition the finalists will be given the recipe and ingredients for a main dish, either classic or modern and given up to three hours to prepare and present it to the judges. 

Swedish three-star Michelin chef Björn Frantzén will join the panel of judges as Honorary President, alongside joint chairmen Alain and Michel Jr. They will be joined by Brian Turner, James Martin, Simon Hulstone, Rachel Humphrey and Angela Hartnett. 

Award Dinner 
The 2020/21 Roux Scholar will be announced at a prestigious award dinner at the Vincent Rooms at Westminster Kingsway College, that same evening which will be cooked by the three most recent Roux Scholars, Spencer Metzger, Martin Carabott and Luke Selby, and the catering students of Westminster Kingsway College. The exclusive event will be attended by sponsors, judges and the finalists. The winner will receive up to £12,000, a three-month stage at a three-star Michelin restaurant anywhere in the world, and a number of superb prizes from our sponsors.

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