Winners of this year’s South West Chef of the Year were announced last night at a glittering awards ceremony and dinner held at Exeter Golf & Country Club. The evening was hosted by competition co-founder Michael Caines MBE and his team of judges, each a top chef from the region, including Stephane Delourme of The Seafood Restaurant; Consultant Chef Peter Gorton; Matt Mason of Jack in the Green; Hywel Jones of Lucknam Park and Seth Ward of Bidvest Foodservice. The competition was also judged by Paul Ainsworth of Paul Ainsworth at Number 6; Neil Haydock of Watergate Bay Hotel; and Michael Wignall of Gidleigh Park who spoke highly of the skill and dedication of the entrants.
The tense grand finals of the two professional classes and the student chef class took place during the day at Exeter College with chefs battling it out for first place in their category as well as the coveted South West Chef of the Year 2016 award. Entrants in the Home Cook and Junior categories, whose finals had taken place earlier in the month, joined competitors for the awards presentation and dinner to find out if they had won an award in this year’s competition.
The awards dinner comprised a feast with courses prepared by three top regional chefs: judge Hywel Jones, a Michelin-starred Executive Chef at Lucknam Park, Bath; Jamie Rogers, a previous winner of South West Chef of the Year (2015) and Head Chef at Belgrave Sands Hotel, Torquay and Scott Paton, also a previous winner of South West Young Professional Chef of the Year (2009) and Head Chef at Boringdon Hall Hotel, Plymouth. Hywel, Jamie and Scott were supported in the kitchen and front of house by students of the Michael Caines Academy.
Despite the competition being in its 13th year, the quality of cooking demonstrated by the entrants continued to surprise judges with its complexity and technical skill. Of the standard, Michael Caines said: “I have been delighted by the standard shown by the competitors. It’s not just about technical skill and the ability to put together mouth-watering flavours; we are also looking for innovation and flair together with the desire to really get behind locally sourced ingredients and give them the culinary treatment they deserve. I am passionate about our regional produce and have been really struck by the dedication our competitors have shown too.”
This year’s South West Chef of the Year was awarded to Jamie Coleman, Head Chef at Saunton Sands Hotel. 2016 was Jamie’s second entry to the competition, proving that perseverance pays. Of his experience and win Jamie said: “This means a lot; it’s my second time competing at South West Chef of the Year and it feels amazing to have won. The competition has provided me with excellent experience and feedback; I came to the heats this year feeling much more prepared. I knew the larder and the process; I knew what I needed to do. My plan now is to keep working hard and learning as well as entering competitions.”
As well as the opportunity to win a prestigious and respected title for their CV, competitors also received invaluable feedback from the judges, each a highly respected chef in their own right. This year also saw the return of previous competitors seeking to repeat their experience and progress up through the categories.