Top UK chefs spearhead S. Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 launch

UK Angela Hartnett Phil Howard launch S. Pellegrino Young Chef 2018

Chefs Angela Hartnett, Phil Howard, Alyn Williams and Mickael Viljanen – along with Claude Bosi ‒ have today launched the S. Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 competition in the UK & Ireland.

The contest is a global event that sees chefs aged 30 or under from 21 geographic regions take part in the three-day grand final in Milan, which this year will happen in June 2018.

Angela Hartnett is the 2018 contest mentor for the eventual UK & Ireland winner, and will travel to Milan with them for the final. 

Phase I of the competition, which is open now, gives chefs the chance to submit applications for their signature dish until April 2017.

Chefs of any nationality – who must have had at least one year working as a sous chef or chef de partie in their chosen region ‒ should submit their entries online here.

The judging process

Phase II will see all applications divided by global region, with 10 finalists for each region then chosen by Italian international culinary education and training centre, ALMA.

Applications will be judged on ingredients, skill, the beauty of the dish, and the dish’s ‘message’ being communicated well. There is also a separate criterion for ‘genius’ – defined as the “ability to explore new, challenging and innovative perspectives…while maintaining a perfect equilibrium of taste”.

Phase III will see the 10 finalists take part in live semi-finals – with the UK & Ireland semi-final set to take part in October this year. The 21 winners from each will then going ahead to Phase VI, the grand finale in Milan, to be judged by seven international judges.

Today saw Hartnett, chef owner of Michelin starred Murano, and the two Café Murano sites in London; Howard, formerly of two starred The Square and now at Elystan Street in London; Williams, head chef at the Michelin starred The Westbury; and Viljanen, head chef at the Michelin starred Greenhouse in Dublin; launch the event at Hartnett’s Café Murano on Tavistock Street in London, with many of the 2018 chef hopefuls in attendance.

The event also welcomed George Kataras, winner of the UK & Ireland semi-final in 2016, and Claude Bosi, former chef-owner of Michelin starred Hibiscus, and now of soon-to-open South Kensington restaurant Bibendum. Bosi served as a judge in the 2016 competition, and was mentor to Kataras as part of the event. 

Advice for hopefuls

The chefs took questions from the hopefuls at the event, with answers encouraging entrants to show flair, a love of ingredients from their home countries, seasonality and sustainability, and warned them to focus on taste above all.

“First and foremost, the food has to taste good,” says Hartnett. “It can look pretty as anything, and be all singing and dancing, but if there’s no flavour to it, then I think – as Phil [Howard] always says, what you really want is a delicious plate. You want to eat more. And that’s what we [as judges] are really looking for.”

“The dishes that stand out are the ones that are delicious,” Howard adds. “I’ve judged a lot of competitions, and you don’t want a dish that is complex at the expense of the taste and flavour. Nature has an amazing ability to produce ingredients that have a seasonal affinity with each other, in terms of deliciousness. But then you also want someone who displays great craftsmanship too.”

Alyn Williams explained the value that the chefs’ own personalities can bring to the dishes, saying: “Take inspiration from the people you’ve worked with and then take it one step further. Deliciousness is the thing above all, but you’ve also got to show some flair, and that you’re a competent cook. It’s also about creating what you intended to create on the day. A whole number of facets make a great winner.”

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