The cream of Borders College catering students won their big break at Friday’s BUAS bicentenary dinner, with three named top out of 20.
Paulo Neves from Melrose came first, Lynn Frizzell from Galashiels second, and Andy Thomson from Earlston third, out of six finalists who competed for placements at three of the UK’s top restaurants.
Paulo impressed judges Albert Roux and Glen Watson at the final in May, by cooking an onion tart with a poached egg and Caesar salad, followed by lobster chardonnay broth flavoured with orange and star anise, and an avocado mousse.
“I knew the judge was French, so I went with French dishes,” the canny 48-year-old from Portugal said. “Albert Roux said he was looking for some fault in my dishes, but couldn’t find one. He said he would serve any one of them at his restaurants straight off. I was over the moon.”
But the three winners weren’t told until after all six finalists helped top chefs ‘prep’ for the BUAS banquet.
“At the end of the night, the Countess of Wessex was sitting with Albert Roux, and he announced I’d won. It was unbelievable. I thought: ‘Did I just hear my name?’”
The level two student, who lives in Melrose, will now spend six months training under Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Scotland’s only two Michelin star restaurant. “Andrew advised me to sleep well before I go,” Paulo added.
“It’s very flexible when I start,” he said, “which is good because my wife works and we have two young children Emil (10) and Sabrina (8) – they are my biggest fans. Without my wife Maria’s sacrifices I wouldn’t have made it.”
Lynn won a two-week placement at London’s La Gavroche, while Andy won a fortnight’s training at Gullane’s Greywalls Hotel & Chez Roux Restaurant.