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Finalists face anxious wait for National Chef of Wales final verdict

Matthew Owen making his debut in the final.

THE NINE National Chef of Wales finalists face an anxious wait until the awards dinner to discover if they have cooked their way to the prestigious title.

The second heat of the final was held yesterday at the Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC) with four more chefs showcasing their culinary skills at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s campus in Rhos-on-Sea.

Wayne Barnard, senior chef de partie at Holm House Hotel, Penarth, Jamie Tully, executive chef at Chartist 1770 at The Trewythen, Llanidloes; Matthew Owen, head chef at the Celtic Collection, Newport and David Williams, head chef at Ty Cwm Gwendraeth, Llanelli each served up their three course menu for 12 people.

The final will be completed today, when the ninth finalist Dalton Weir, sous chef at The Cottage Loaf, Llandudno, competes. Dalton is seeking to complete the double by winning the Junior and National Chef of Wales titles in successive years.

The chefs must cook their own creative menu for a three course dinner for 12 people within five hours, using  a majority of Welsh ingredients. Their starter must be suitable for vegans, the main course must use two different cuts of PGI Welsh Lamb and the dessert must feature seasonal fruits, an ice cream, chocolate and biscuit or tuille.

Wayne Barnard in action in the final.

The WICC is organised by the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) and main sponsor is Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Government’s department representing the food and drink industry. Other sponsors include Castell Howell, Churchill, Major International, Riso Gallo, Dick Knives, MCS Tech Products, Hybu Cig Cymru/ Meat Promotion Wales, Cambrian Training Company and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai.

Colin Gray, CAW vice president and chairman of the judges, said: “The chefs competing today have continued the high standards set in the first heat and we are looking forward to seeing what the last finalist does tomorrow.

“We have seen some great teamwork and a number of chefs, from different settings, have competed for the first time. It has been nice to see the good mix of establishments represented in this year’s final.”

Barnard, a finalist for the third time, served up a starter of beetroot, celeriac and tofu souffle, pistachio craquelin, carrot and ginger puree, aged balsamic Penderyn whisky beetroot ketchup, pickled heritage beetroot and micro herbs. Main course was Pant-Ys-Gawn pancetta spinach stuffed saddle of Welsh Lamb, minted pea velouté, lamb Parisienne potatoes, slow braised lamb tongue and walnut and apricot herb crumb. His dessert was dark chocolate, blood orange and passion fruit mousse, sable biscuit, almond tuille, candied almonds, passion fruit and champagne jelly, ruby chocolate and lavender ice cream.

Jamie Tully puts the finishing touches to one of his dishes.

Owen, making his debut in the final, served up a starter of wild mushroom tartlet,   artichoke puree, wild mushroom, mushroom powder, artichoke crisps, mushroom ketchup, onion petals, basil, cashew and nutritional yeast parmesan and crispy kale. Main course was Lamb Wellington with pea, wild mushroom duxelles, fondant potato, girolle, braised lamb chou farci, carrot, spiced granola, roscoff onion and lamb jus. Dessert was caramelised white chocolate mousse, pear, lemon and honey sponge, poached pear, pear puree, Welsh honey and milk ice cream and honey tuille.

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Williams, the first care home chef to reach the final, opened his menu with a starter of leeks with a coffee broth followed by a main course of herb crusted lamb loin with port jus, sweetbread croquettes, fondant potatoes, glazed baby carrots, celeriac puree and sprouts with bacon and onions. Dessert was pears with chocolate mousse and pistachio ice cream.

Tully, another final debutant, served up a starter of salt baked celeriac, tartar, hazelnut, apple and Welsh truffle, Penderyn and celeriac broth. Main course was PGI Welsh Lamb three ways, comprising a 63’s cutlet, rib and shoulder, leek puree, mayonnaise, pearl onions and Glyndwr jus. Dessert was 70% chocolate and forced rhubarb, tart, crémeux, sponge, tuille, rhubarb gel and rhubarb sorbet.

Yesterday’s first heat comprised Robert Cave, head chef at Rookery Hall Hotel, Crewe, Matthew Smith, chef lecturer at Cheshire South & West College, Dan Andree, head chef at Beach House Restaurant, Oxwich, Swansea and Sophie Rowe, chef de partie at Gaerwen Arms, Gaerwen, Anglesey.

David Williams, the first care home chef to reach the final.

The winner will receive £500, a set of engraved knives from Friedr Dick and £250 worth of Churchill products. Runner-up will receive £300 and third place £200.

Tomorrow, the last day of the championships, will also feature the Junior Chef of Wales final which will be contested by five chefs. Three of last year’s finalists. Falon Bailie, junior sous chef at Foyles of Glasbury, Katie Duffy, second chef at Llanelly House, Llanelli and Stephanie Belcher from Coast Restaurant, Saundersfoot, will compete against Oliver Herrington, demi chef de partie at Celtic Manor Resort, Newport and Abigail Williams, a student at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Nantgarw Campus.

The winners of both the National and Junior Chef of Wales contests will be announced at an awards dinner at The Imperial Hotel, Llandudno tomorrow night.

In addition to the showpiece finals, there are a host of other competitions over the three days for chefs and front of house staff to suit every level of experience.