A pas­sion to in­spire

A chef on a mis­sion to spark young peo­ple’s culi­nary am­bi­tions

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE -

It’s not every day that a res­tau­rant ta­ble is set with a gold­fish bowl in­stead of a flower or two. Or that a tarte Tatin made by cater­ing col­lege stu­dents is deemed ‘res­tau­rant qual­ity, one of best I’ve ever eaten – and I’ve eaten a few’ by a re­spected chef with half a life­time at the stove un­der his belt.

But that’s what stu­dent waiter Will Shinn did, and what judge Jeremy Med­ley said, and what con­trib­uted to the team of Will and two fel­low stu­dent chefs, Crystal New­ton and Alex Corn­well, from West Suf­folk Col­lege, Bury St Ed­munds, win­ning this year’s Pas­sion to In­spire com­pe­ti­tion. The day af­ter the com­pe­ti­tion the stu­dents are straight back to work, but the tro­phy sits tri­umphantly in the col­lege res­tau­rant, Ed­munds.

The trio re­live the ex­pe­ri­ence. They talk about the stress of two hours with­out a work­ing oven –“Just when I needed to roast the duck bones,” Crystal New­ton re­calls with a gri­mace – the nearmiss when a bot­tle of Ries­ling was saved by a whisker from crash­ing to the floor, how they shared equip­ment with fel­low com­peti­tors, and the ex­hil­a­ra­tion of cre­at­ing and serv­ing three dishes with paired wines to the very best of their abil­ity.

They are ef­fu­sive in their ap­pre­ci­a­tion of their tu­tors, Stu­art As­cott, Matt Gold­ing and Rob Reynolds, and men­tor James Carn, head chef at The An­gel ho­tel, Bury St Ed­munds. James taught them the tarte tatin recipe, helped them per­fect the starter (tem­pura of Loch Duart salmon belly with lime, grape­fruit, soy, peanut, av­o­cado), and main course (Creedy Carver duck breast, duck fat pommes Anna, kibbeh, wild gar­lic, peas, broad beans, white as­para­gus, dukkah).

“We prac­tised so much,” says Will, who de­vised a wood­land theme to com­ple­ment the menu. “I kept chang­ing my mind with the set­ting. We had no idea how big the ta­bles would be, but I wanted to do some­thing dra­matic. That’s where the gold­fish came in.”

By the time this piece ap­pears, Will, Crystal, and Alex will have met leg­endary chef Ray­mond Blanc at the July Skills for Chefs con­fer­ence in Sh­effield, they will have re­ceived their chef’s jack­ets and waiter’s apron, and no doubt will have dates set for the lunches, stages and pro­ducer vis­its that are all part of their prize.

The Pas­sion to In­spire tro­phy is con­tested an­nu­ally be­tween East Anglian cater­ing col­leges, with col­lege heats de­ter­min­ing a team to go to the fi­nals. De­vised and or­gan­ised by chef Mur­ray Chap­man, the com­pe­ti­tion is at the heart of his mis­sion to forge mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions be­tween ex­pe­ri­enced chefs and those in train­ing. He has no

trou­ble find­ing chefs to judge, or per­suad­ing the likes of celebrity chef Cyrus Todi­wala to share his knowl­edge of spices on an Up­skill Day, part of the prepa­ra­tion for the fi­nals.

“The judges were look­ing for ev­i­dence of learn­ing from that day,” says Mur­ray, “whether it was how to spice the duck, or what might work with the ap­ples, or the cor­rect sea­son­ing for the salmon.” It was on this day that the re­quired com­po­nents of the fully costed meal were re­vealed – Loch Duart salmon belly, Creedy Carver duck, ap­ple tarte Tatin.

The chef judges – Mark Poyn­ton, pre­vi­ously of Ali­men­tum in Cam­bridge, Nick Clax­ton-Webb from the Weep­ing Wil­low, Bar­row, and Jeremy Med­ley from In­fu­sion­s4Chefs – were as wowed by the food as Shara Ross (Ho­tel Felix, Cam­bridge) and Nick Mills (Brasted’s, near Nor­wich) were by the ser­vice and pre­sen­ta­tion. They loved that the tarte was served whole, and shown be­fore por­tion­ing, that the caramelised ap­ples held to­gether de­spite the long, slow cook­ing, and that Crystal rochered the vanilla and Cal­va­dos ice cream deftly at the ta­ble. They loved how the tarte tasted – sweet, sharp, fudgy, rich – how they nailed the sea­son­ing of the kibbeh, and how the duck fat po­ta­toes were, says Mur­ray, “sim­ply stun­ning”.

“They were so pro­fes­sional, their com­mu­ni­ca­tion and team­work was in­cred­i­ble. To see that at such a young age is amaz­ing, it was a plea­sure to watch.” James agrees. “They prac­tised and prac­tised but saved the best for the day. They were bril­liant, such a cool team.” In fact, the whole year men­tor­ing the Level 3s was a thrill, he says. “We’ve worked with oys­ters, lob­ster, sweet­breads, all sorts of of­fal, even hand-dived scal­lops – in­gre­di­ents they might not get to use at col­lege. I’ve ab­so­lutely loved work­ing with them, open­ing their eyes to op­por­tu­ni­ties. If you can help kick-start some­one’s ca­reer when they’re 17, how fan­tas­tic is that!”


Such is the per­sua­sive charm of Mur­ray Chap­man that, one night back in April, some of East Anglia’s best-known chefs downed knives in fa­mil­iar kitchens, and two top front of house pro­fes­sion­als left their prop­er­ties, to con­verge on Alan Pa­ton’s kitchen and din­ing room at Stoke by Nay­land ho­tel, golf and spa. They had been sum­moned, and trav­elled will­ingly, to take part in a charity din­ner, in aid of Teenage Can­cer Trust, that they would pre­pare,

‘These events are about bring­ing education and in­dus­try to­gether

cook and serve along­side stu­dent chefs and wait­ers from East Anglian col­leges – Cam­bridge Re­gional, West Suf­folk, Colch­ester – and Coven­try and Mil­ton Keynes col­leges. They would pass on the ben­e­fit of their ex­pe­ri­ence to the young peo­ple, en­thuse them about their cho­sen ca­reers, show real-life ser­vice skills, con­nect and col­lab­o­rate, and the event would raise £7,000 for the charity.

As the last desserts are served, Alan’s kitchen falls quiet, and the chefs and wait­ers ac­knowl­edge the ap­plause of the room. Mur­ray does a poor job of hid­ing his emo­tion. He’s grate­ful for the sup­port for the vol­un­tary, not-for-profit ini­tia­tive that he set up back in 2009, and which has raised £150,000 for charity. “These events are about rais­ing money, but also about bring­ing education and in­dus­try to­gether, get­ting ex­pe­ri­enced pro­fes­sion­als to show young­sters what is pos­si­ble,” he tells guests.

Rewind a few hours, and prep is in full swing. The voice of Bilde­ston Crown’s Chris Lee car­ries over the kitchen hub­bub. “Keep your sta­tions tidy,” he calls. He’s on starters with Lee Cooper, de­vel­op­ment chef at ICE Cook School in Rougham, and two stu­dents from West Suf­folk Col­lege. The young­sters jump to, nudged by lec­turer Stu­art As­cott, and wipe down the bench. Tyran Pierre, a Level 3 stu­dent,

who adds to his col­lege-based learn­ing with a part-time job at 1921 An­gel Hill res­tau­rant, puts his knife metic­u­lously through pars­ley, while fel­low stu­dent Tom Her­ring works with Lee, cut­ting pain d’épice to go with smoked breast of Suf­folk duck with lentils, giz­zard, con­fit leg and cab­bage.

“It’s mag­i­cal to see the learn­ing that hap­pens on days like this,” says Lee. “And we need to do it – it’s some­thing we have to do for the good of the in­dus­try.” Else­where, Matt Wilby, ex­ec­u­tive chef at the Royal Hos­pi­tal School in Hol­brook, and Steve Groves, head chef of the Miche­lin-starred Roux at Par­lia­ment Square, over­see Level 2 Colch­ester In­sti­tute stu­dents Will Alden and Harry Wil­ton. The pair have prepped a moun­tain of radish for a main course of Din­g­ley Dell pork rib­eye and cheek – the lat­ter will be com­bined with ca­pers, pars­ley and mus­tard into a welling­ton – be­fore Steve demon­strates just how fine he wants them to slice the pigs’ trot­ters that will be the base for a glossy sauce.

“I found out about the col­lege when I was in year 7, and I’ve wanted to be a chef ever since,” says Will as he chops. It’s the same for Harry, and both work in lo­cal kitchens to sup­ple­ment col­lege learn­ing. “This is all about get­ting ready for the work­place,” says Steve. “We need to es­tab­lish con­nec­tions with the col­leges, set things up for a strong fu­ture for the in­dus­try, and for the guys start­ing out. It can be in­tim­i­dat­ing, but hope­fully this sort of event makes it less so.”

Later on, Steve casts a last eye over the main course plates as they flow past, car­ried con­fi­dently by front of house stu­dents un­der the watch­ful eye of Shara and Nick. He can re­lax, and hand the pres­sure over to Eric Snaith (Titch­well Manor, north Nor­folk) and Rus­sell Bate­man, for­mer Na­tional Chef of the Year and since July head chef at Petrus, Knights­bridge, who are work­ing with Mil­ton Keynes Col­lege stu­dents on dessert.

“It’s about mak­ing con­nec­tions,” says Eric, as he over­sees a multi-el­e­ment dessert of ba­nana frit­ter, dulce de leche par­fait, vanilla pan­na­cotta and pas­sion fruit. “Some young chefs are not con­fi­dent enough to pick up the phone to ask about jobs, so hope­fully this gets rid of that fear.”

NSuf­folk mag­a­zine is look­ing for an in­di­vid­ual or business to cham­pion Young Chef of the Year in the 2019 Suf­folk Food and Drink Awards. It’s a highly prized award, which at­tracts keen com­pe­ti­tion from the county’s up and com­ing chefs, and an in­valu­able show­case for their con­sid­er­able tal­ent.

If you be­lieve we need to in­spire and en­cour­age young chefs and you want to help se­cure a strong fu­ture for the hospi­tal­ity in­dus­try in Suf­folk and the UK, why not get in­volved? For more in­for­ma­tion con­tact Suf­folk mag­a­zine editor Jayne Lindill jayne.lindill@eadt.co.uk, or Jodie Smith, com­mer­cial man­ager, jodie.smith@archant. co.uk

‘The com­pe­ti­tion is at the heart of his mis­sion to forge mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions. ’

ABOVE:Chefs and young chefs get down to work in the kitchen

BE­LOW:Chefs in the kitchen pre­par­ing A Pas­sion to In­spire charity din­ner.

ABOVE:The Pas­sion to In­spire win­ners, Will Shinn, Crystal New­ton and Alex Corn­well, with tu­tor chef Stu­art As­cott

Putting the fin­ish­ing touches to a dish at the A Pas­sion to In­spire event

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