The new National Chef of Wales is Thomas Herbert from Bridgend who works who works at Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Chippenham.
Herbert, a 24-year-old chef de partie, received the coveted Dragon Trophy from Wales’ Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, Lesley Griffiths, at the Welsh International Culinary Championships presentation dinner held at the Imperial Hotel, Llandudno last night (Thursday).
He beat four rival chefs in a cook off to win the £1,000 prize and will now represent Wales at the next Worldchefs Global Chefs Challenge Northern Europe heat. He also received a set of knives from Friedr Dick and £250 worth of Churchill products.
Gold medallist Herbert is the third chef in six years from Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, where Welsh chef Hywel Jones is the executive chef, to become the National Chef of Wales, following in the footsteps of Ben Taylor in 2016 and Thomas Westerland in 2018.
Runner up and silver medallist Andrew Tabberner, 29, chef co-owner of Gaerwen Arms, Gaerwen, Anglesey, collected £500 and third placed bronze medallist Robert Cave, 38, from Wrexham, senior sous chef at Rookery Hall, Worleston, Nantwich, received £300.
The other bronze medallists were Matthew Smith, 38, sous chef at Chartists 1770 at The Trewythen Hotel, Llanidloes, Wayne Barnard, 39, sous chef at Manor Parc Country Hotel and Restaurant, Thornhill, Cardiff.
“I was very happy with my dishes but I honestly didn’t expect to win,” was Thomas’ first reaction to winning. “It means a lot to me because I am a proud Welshman and my dream is to eventually come back to Wales and open my own restaurant.
“I am the third chef from Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa to win the National Chef of Wales title which shows the Hywel Jones is putting his time into us and producing a great calibre of chef. I owe this win to him and also my commis chef Jamaar Semper who helped me in the final.”
Main sponsor of the WICC, organised by the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW), is Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Government’s department representing the food and drink industry. The three-day championships were hosted by Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s campus in Rhos-on-Sea.
The finalists had five hours to prepare and cook their own four course menu for 12 people, featuring mostly Welsh ingredients. A vegan starter is followed by a fish dish, a main course using two different cuts of Welsh Lamb and a dessert featuring seasonal fruits, ice cream, chocolate and biscuit or tuille.
For the first time at the WICC, invited guests and sponsors had a chance to taste the finalists’ dishes.
Colin Gray, judging panel chairman, said: “Thomas’ dishes were exceptional, full of flavour using modern cooking and presentation techniques which is what we are looking for. It’s a good example of how fine cuisine has developed and come of age.
“For someone so young to be competing and winning against more experienced chefs is very impressive.”
Herbert cooked a vegan baked potato gnocchi with cep and Welsh truffle and a starter of Anglesey sea bass with lavabread and cucumber. Main course was a duo of Welsh Lamb with spiced carrot and yoghurt and his menu was completed by chocolate cremeux with pear.
Tabberner, whose commis chef was Ollie Thompson, cooked Anglesey potato with Medwyn’s leeks, vegan smoked cheese and Welsh truffle followed by Menai lobster risotto with preserved lemon, Exmoor caviar and Menai oyster.
Main course was titled Tom’s dry aged loin of lamb with tender stem broccoli, wild garlic, anchovy and lamb bourguignon. The menu was completed with Apple millionaire which included shortbread, caramelia chocolate caramel and Calvados ice cream.
Cave, whose commis chef was Georgi Brazev, served up crisp vegan sausage with glazed hen of the woods, salt baked beetroot and beetroot ketchup, followed by Anglesey crab tart with crab apple , macerated cucumber and brown crab mayonnaise.
Main course was titled Daphne’s Welsh Lamb, with roast lamb rump, yakatori barbecued lamb rib, provençale vegetables, ewe’s curd, basil and lamb jus. Dessert was Wickedly Welsh Halen Mon crémeux with Viennese biscuit, poached pear, Penderyn whiskey ice cream and marigold.
The judges were Gray, managing director of Capital Cuisine, Caerphilly, Graham Tinsley, executive chef Carden Park, near Chester, Michael Evans, lecturer at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Danny Burke, co-owner Olive Tree Catering, Runcorn and Lee Corke, catering manager, Clare College, Cambridge.
Other WICC sponsors include Castel Howell, Churchill, Major International, Riso Gallo, Dick Knives, MCS Tech Products, Hybu Cig Cymru/ Meat Promotion Wales, Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Cambrian Training Company, Roller Grill and Ecolab.