A Michelin-star chef and a food blooger joined the judging panel for Sussex Young Chef of the Year.
Tristan Mason, owner of Restaurant Tristan in Horsham, adjudicated at the MasterChef style cook off, during the Sussex Food and Drink Awards.
He was joined by lead judge, nationally acclaimed chef and Great British Menu Winner, Matt Gillan from Electro Pirate, and fellow Michelin star chef George Blogg from Gravetye Manor near East Grinstead.
Fran Villani, food blogger and designer in Brighton and sponsor and former restaurateur Adrian Burr, from Blakes Foods, also joined the panel.
Sussex ingredients were showcased at their best in the spring menus of six young chefs who took part at the Greater Metropolitan College in Brighton on Monday March 11.
Celebrating ten years since the category was introduced to the awards, the 2019 competition, sponsored by Blakes Foods, was stronger than ever.
Dan Ibbotson from etch. in Brighton and Hove, Isabella Raccagna from Farmer, Butcher, Chef in Goodwood, West Sussex and Charlie Simmons from Rathfinny Tasting Room in Alfriston, East Sussex were thrilled to be announced as grand finalists.
All three will be invited to the awards banquet, where the overall winner will be revealed and presented with their trophy.
The finalists fought off stiff competition from Lucas Fielding from The Cat Inn in West Hoathly, Ben Lippett from 64 Degrees in Brighton & Hove and Ben Welfare from The Preston Park Tavern in Brighton & Hove.
Tristan said: “I wish we could have put them all through. The standard was so incredibly high and it was such a close competition. Well done to everyone.”
All six chefs were presented with a SuperFast Thermapen goodie bag and the judging panel praised the high standard of cooking.
Matt added: “This is my third year involved in this incredible competition and I’ve been thrilled to welcome Tristan and George along with Fran and Adrian to make up this highly regarded judging panel. What a fantastic experience for these young chefs.”
“To put your own thoughts down on paper and bring them to life under pressure isn’t easy. The Sussex Food and Drink Awards are a great platform in this tough industry and this competition offers a unique opportunity for these young chefs. It is designed to encourage all of them to have a real sense of ownership and achievement at a young age and moving forwards this really does have a huge impact on them.”
The chefs were asked to create a special spring menu to mark the change of the seasons.
The three-course dinner or lunch had to showcase ingredients from Sussex producers, farmers and growers with a budget of £15 per person and only 90 minutes to produce two plates of each course.
Taste, presentation, market appeal and consumer trends used in the menus were all under scrutiny as well as the sourcing and creativity of ingredients used, the workmanship and more.
Isabella Raccagna, 22, from Farmer, Butcher, Chef at the Goodwood Estate was the only girl competing this year
She said: “I’m absolutely ecstatic that I have made it through to the top three. I can’t wait for the banquet in May and I’m just thrilled the judges enjoyed the dishes I served up today.”
Adrian Burr added: “There wasn’t a single dish that failed to impress us today which has resulted in a remarkably close final. These chefs should feel incredibly proud of what they have achieved and I am delighted that Blakes Foods is sponsoring this fantastic category.”
At just 19, Dan Ibbotson from etch. in Brighton and Hove was the youngest chef in the cook off. His main dish was pork rump from Lancing with artichoke and wild garlic followed by a pear dessert with honey and coriander.
He said: “It was surprisingly challenging today. I am thrilled with the results and delighted to be going through.”
Charlie Simmons, 21, from Rathfinny Tasting Room in Alfriston, added: “I’m just so so happy and really proud that I did justice to this beautiful Sussex produce today.”
George Blogg from Gravetye Manor said, “Everyone has been utterly brilliant. They should all feel incredibly proud at what they have achieved.”
Other categories in the awards include Sussex eating experience, food producer, drink producer, and more.
Grandfinalists will celebrate at the Sussex Foodie event of the year, held at the Amex stadium, hosted by patron Sally Gunnell OBE and BBC’s Danny Pike.
For more see www.sussexfoodawards.biz