Six Borders chefs set for showdown

Young border chefs cook for international chef  Albert Roux at the Borders College to wina 6month placement and �6,000 bursary.
Young border chefs cook for international chef Albert Roux at the Borders College to wina 6month placement and �6,000 bursary.
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Next week’s Border Union Show in Kelso will launch the career of a Borders College chef, as six hopefuls cook beside Albert Roux for the Border Union Agricultural Society’s bicentenary dinner.

The six finalists competed in a cook-off in May at the Borders College Galashiels Campus, judged by multi-Michelin starred chef Roux and Glen Watson, a former Borders College student from Kelso, who began his cooking career washing dishes at the Ednam House Hotel, but now works as a consultant chef for the Roux dynasty.

The winner, who will be announced after the the Border Union Agricultural Society’s (BUAS) banquet on Friday night, will walk away with a grand prize of a six-month placement at Andrew Fairlie’s Gleneagles restaurant – Scotland’s only two-starred Michelin eatery – with a £6,000 scholarship for accommodation donated by BUAS as part of its bicentenary celebrations.

Culinary legend Roux produced another two prizes out of his chef’s hat in May – two-week placements at La Gavroche in London (run by Albert’s son, Masterchef judge Michel Roux jnr) and at the Greywalls Hotel & Chez Roux Restaurant in Gullane under its head chef, and Professional Masterchef winner, Derek Johnstone. Albert, with his brother Michel, established London’s Le Gavroche, the first restaurant in the UK to gain three Michelin stars.

The six talented Level 2 and 3 catering students competing for their big break are: Level 2 students Andy Thomson from Earlston, Paulo Neves from Melrose, Chris Mitchell from Hawick, Jessica Mead from St Boswells, and from Level 3, Lynn Frizzell from Galashiels and Ainsley Casson from Hawick.

Watson whittled down 20 contestants in the March heats, when they were given an hour to cook one classic dish using local and seasonal ingredients. The half-dozen finalists then went on to cook for Albert Roux in May, when they were given 2 1/2 hours to cook two new dishes, one of which had to include pastry.

Watson, who sets up recipes and sources produce for the Roux group’s many Michelin-starred restaurants throughout the country, proposed the Borders College competition in September last year, thanks to his connection with the region, and he easily persuaded his boss Albert Roux to take part.

“For me, it was important to give something back to the Borders,” he told us.

The competition, which was also supported by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), was open to all catering students from Levels 1 to 3 currently at Borders College. “We give them the chance, and they’ll have the opportunity to do whatever they want to do,” Watson said.

BUAS’s bicentenary banquet for 400-500 guests on Friday evening at Kelso’s Springwood Park, which features a four-course menu championing Borders produce, will be prepared by masterchefs Albert Roux, Andrew Fairlie, Derek Johnstone and Steven Doherty (former head chef at Le Gavroche) – assisted by the six Borders College finalists.

The banquet starts with Fairlie’s ballotine of salmon with fresh herbs, followed by Glen Watson’s wild mushroom risotto and Doherty’s main of Border spring lamb. Johnstone finishes the dinner with a raspberry assiette for dessert, while Le Gavroche’s general manager, Silvano Giraldin, will select wines especially for each course.

Ronald Wilson, secretary of BUAS, told TheSouthern “This is a unique one-off if you’re a foodie. We’re not trying to make any money out of it: we just want to celebrate and honour our chefs.”

The feast’s last few tickets, which cost £175, are still available from BUAS, by contacting ronaldwilson@buas.org

In addition to the Border Union Show’s traditional competitions, activities and displays on July 26 and 27, the 2013 bicentenary event will include a ‘Flavour of the Borders Food Fair’ featuring 47 artisan food and d

rink producers.

These will be accompanied by cookery demonstrations in Springwood Hall from Andrew Fairlie and Derek Johnstone, and Border chefs Alan Reid of Walkerburn’s Windlestraw Lodge, Neville Merrin of the Roxburghe Hotel, Kenny Coltman from Coltman’s on Peebles High Street, and Ross Horrocks from the Caddy Mann at Mounthooly near Jedburgh.

The almost 50 food stalls will include local producers Border Berries, Over Langshaw Farmhouse Ice Cream, the Great Northumberland Bread Company, Standhill Cheesery, Berwickshire’s Peelham Farm, Simple Simon’s Perfect Pies from Biggar, and, from farther afield, Perthshire’s Cairn o Mohr fruit winery, Swallow Fish from Seahouses, the Galloway Fudge Company, Foodstation Wales, and the Mad Jam Woman from Morpeth.