Focus on sustainability as top young seafood chefs crowned
May 16 2012 Lewis Smith
Preparing a winning dish
Two students from University College Birmingham have been crowned the UK’s Young Seafood Chefs of the year.
Katie Lewis, 18, and Marco Sannio, 25, from University College Birmingham, impressed the judges with a three-course meal including a plaice dish described as “close to perfection”.
The competition is organised and hosted by the Grimsby Institute and the judges included Mitch Tonks, the chef and author, Franck Pontais, of the Craft Guild of Chefs, Serge Nollent, head product development chef at Youngs, and Nikki Hawkins, of Seafish.
Mr Tonks, who runs three restaurants which have blue fish ratings on Fish2fork, described the pair’s main course of potato scaled fillet of plaice with spinach pupietteas, black dahl, cauliflower pakoras, golden rasins and spiced almond cream, as a truly impressive piece dish.
“It was a perfectly cooked piece of plaice,” he said. “It was just great, a really lovely combination.”
He was equally impressed at the overall standard of the competition, which was first run in 1997, which saw eight pairs of chefs battling for first place: “The quality was ablsolutely fantastic. It was the best year the competition’s had, that’s for sure.
“I think there was a lot less of chefs getting influenced by the Michelin world, and a lot of people cooking real food.”
The winning pair, who shared a £1,000 top prize, also cooked langoustine bisque composition, with pea puree, parma shard and seaweed sour. Their third dish was saffron poached salmon with fennel cream, liquorice tuile and pink peppercorn.
One of the central themes of the competition is the sustainability of the fish used – to the point that while the chefs were competing, their tutors were invited to a refresher lecture on marine sustainability. Paul Robinson, the organiser, said young chefs are usually very receptive to advice on sustainable seafood.
“They understand and get the reasons why we do it. Over 95 per cent of the response is good,” he said, though he conceded there are a few who are determined to cook irrespective of whether the species they have chosen comes from healthy stocks.
Ms Lewis said after being awarded first place: “It’s an absolutely amazing feeling to have won. It makes all of the hard work we have put in over the past few months worthwhile.”
Marco Sannio and Katie Lewis
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