SIX trainee chefs from Borders College in Galashiels put their heart and soul into their dishes on Tuesday for a very special diner.
Because if culinary legend Albert Roux OBE KFO liked what he tasted, he was ready to offer a rather large tip – a six-month placement at Andrew Fairlie’s Gleneagles restaurant and a £6,000 bursary.
The competition is part of the Border Union Agricultural Society’s bicentenary celebrations – and the winner of today’s cook-off will be announced ahead of this year’s show in July.
The lucky chef will also cook alongside Mr Roux and several top chefs for the society’s bicentenary banquet at Kelso’s Springwood Park.
The multi-Michelin-starred chef told The Southern he loves the Borders, especially Kelso Racecourse, where he has “had a couple of winners” and the Tweed, where he spends hours fishing.
But what was he looking for from the talented half-dozen?
“Passion,” he enthused. “Passion will reflect on the dish. I see a lot of commitment from every one of them and they seem very happy to compete.”
“The more we do of this kind of thing the better for Scotland. We have to train people for the future and this industry has a lot to give.”
Former Borders College student Glen Watson, who now works for the Roux dynasty, was contacted by society secretary Ron Wilson to see if he could help with organising the competition.
It was the beginning of a two-year journey, during which Mr Watson quite easily persuaded his boss to come on board and which culminated in Tuesday’s cook-off.
Mr Watson, originally of Kelso, told us: “To be able to give something back to the college where I learned my trade is important to me.”
And he said the winning student would gain a superb start to their career.
He added: “Every day is different, every day is inspiring. And hopefully that’s what we pass on to the people that work for us.”
The six students – Andy Thomson, Earlston; Paulo Neves, Melrose; Chris Mitchell, Hawick; Jessica Mead, St Boswells; Lynn Frizzell, Galashiels and Ainsley Casson, Hawick – are all in the second or third year of their hospitality courses.
z See video interviews with Albert Roux and all the six finalists on our website from today – www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk/news/latest-videos