BBPA Blog: Parliamentary Pub Chef of the Year Competition 2016

When the BBPA first approached Andrew Griffiths MP and the Parliamentary Beer Group to run a Parliamentary Pub Chef of the Year competition, we estimated that we might receive 30 nominations from MPs. 127 nominations later, from 108 MPs suggests that not only are pubs at the heart of local constituencies, but that great pub food is valued across the UK. With the support of Nestlé, who not only are interested in good coffee in pubs, but supply so many useful ingredients in the kitchen, the judges, ably coordinated by Josh Green in my team and Martyn Webster from Nestlé whittled down the 127 to a shortlist of eight for the final cook-off; four Young Chefs of the Year (aged 30 and under) and four Pub Chefs of the Year!

 

With huge help from Fullers who allowed our chefs to ‘cook-off’ at the Vintry pub in the City of London – one of the few pubs big enough to have four separate cooking stations and who were very generous in not only time, but the provision of some very fine, fresh ingredients, we were ready for the main event which took place on Tuesday afternoon. The judges, chefs, Paul Merrett (of Saturday Kitchen and three pubs in West London), Ashley McCarthy who runs Ye Olde Sun Inn in Colton, near York (one of the best pubs I have eaten in), Paul Dickenson (Head of Food at Fullers), Andre Prokes (who works with Nestlé), Andrew Griffiths MP and myself has the unenviable task of choosing the winner in each category. All the chefs were given a list of ingredients which would be available the day before; they had 15 minutes of preparation and then an hour to cook and plate four portions of a main course.

 

We began by watching the Young Chefs, who during the course of the afternoon came and sat down with the judges for a chat. Edward Hackland is head chef at the Wagon in Halam in Nottinghamshire. He serves 400 to 500 covers a week with three of them, in what he described as a very small kitchen. He grew up with a single mother and three brothers, so learnt to cook at home, but started his training at the age of 15. He is also passionate about gardening, grows much of his own food and makes all his own bread. For the competition he chose brill. Gordon Stott who is head chef at the Sun Inn in Dummer (just outside Basingstoke) at 20 became both a landlord and head chef. He looks after a team of 8 who can cook parties of up to 120 people, although the pub restaurant has only 44 covers. He is particularly passionate about teaching young people – he is the oldest in his team at now 26! He too chose to cook brill. Matt Long is head chef at the Raglan Arms, in Llandenny, Wales. His experience has included cooking for a Formula One team, travelling around the world. He is keen to train young people; his team include three young lads from the local Job Centre. He chose to cook guinea fowl. Finally, in this category was Robert Yuill, who is responsible for three properties in Dundee, Scotland. He began his career in an Asda Bakery and has worked at the Gleneagles hotel and is now head chef at D’Arcy Thompson. He serves not only lunch and dinner, but afternoon tea and his fruit and vegetables, meat and fish are locally sourced. His passion is sustainability and a showcase of the Scottish larder. He chose to cook venison.

 

In the Pub Chef competition, we started with John Calton who runs Staith House in North Shields – he smokes his own fish and game and has started a journey into charcuterie, curing hams, salami and chorizo to broaden their offering. Local fish is their speciality, as well as aged beef and lamb. He chose to cook brill. Gordon Jones is the head chef at The Brit Pub in Port Talbot. His father was a fisherman and hunter, so seasonal produce is his passion, although he admitted to having to work hard on local people to be a little more adventurous in what they order! He also cooked brill. Michele Cremona (our only female chef) is totally self-taught. She is particularly passionate about vegetables and often makes them the main attraction in her dishes. She runs a pub through Laines Pub Company and is particularly interested in slow cooking and has a “herb hospital” in the pub. She cooked venison liver. Finally in this category we had Milan Hukal who originally hails from the Czech Republic, but has been in England for 13 years and is the head chef at the Dog Inn in Grundisburgh with five full time staff. They have their own smoker, herb garden, source a lot produce from their village and serve 300 to 400 covers a week.  You can see a video of the cook-off here.

 

The result was announced in the House of Commons on 23rd February. In the Young Chef of the Year Category, the winner was Robert Yuill and in the Pub Chef of the Year was Milan Hukal.  A link to the press release can be found hereSuffice to say all the food cooked was delicious, the standard high and just showed the skills which now exist to produce such fantastic food in our pubs. No wonder visiting a Great British Pub is third on the list of things to do for international visitors and four out of ten visit a pub whilst they are here! There is much we can all do with local colleges and schools to raise the profile of a working and cooking in a pub, but this short of showcase is a very good start.

 

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