Archive for March, 2019

Roux Scholarship: Finalsists Announced (March 2019)

Posted on: March 16th, 2019 by Simon Carter

After the exciting regional finals in London and Birmingham, the Roux family is delighted to announce the names of the six chefs who will compete for the title of Roux Scholar 2019 on 1st April 2019.

They are:
Ryan Baker, The Ritz, London
Olivia Catherine Burt, Claridge’s, London
Michael Cruickshank, Bohemia, Jersey
Adam Harper, The Cavendish Hotel at Baslow, Derbyshire
Lewis Linley, Vacherin, London
Spencer Metzger, The Ritz, London  

One reserve (who will compete if a chef has to drop out): 
Samuel Nash
, L’Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria  

Judging in London, at University of West London, Michel Roux Jr said: “Amazing standard. Every year it just gets better and better and the correctness of the cooking and the seasoning was beyond reproach.” Many of the judges were impressed by how evident it was that the chefs had practised their dishes over and over. James Martin said: “They’d all practised, practised, practised, and you can tell. Those who’ve practised have really nailed it.”

Two of the finalists come from The Ritz, Spencer Metzger, who competed in Birmingham, and Ryan Baker, who competed in London, both of whom entered for the first time this year. Ryan said: “I’m ecstatic that I got through. I’m really excited about taking the next step. I practised on all my days off, over the last couple of months – practised, practised, practised, and it really paid off.”

Meanwhile, Olivia Catherine Burt from Claridge’s also entered for the first time this year. “I’m super-excited. It’s a really big achievement. I practised from the moment I heard I’d got through. It’s always quite difficult work and practising. I’ve had lots of support from my head chef Martyn [Nail] and also Matt [Starling] from when I worked at Fera.”

Meanwhile in Birmingham, some of the chefs struggled to cook their dishes and the mystery box dessert within the time given. Judge Angela Hartnett said: “My advice would be to future entrants: when thinking about the paper entry, save time for the dessert.”

Chairman Alain Roux said: “There was a level of complexity in a lot of the dishes, which cannot be easy to execute at that level. The result was that the desserts were not so well-executed and they should have properly cooked and poached the fruit.”

Facts about the finalists:

  • Michael Cruickshank was in the national final in 2017, and the regional final in 2016 and 2018.
  • Two of the finalists, Ryan Baker and Spencer Metzger work for The Ritz, in Chef John Williams’ Brigade.
  • Olivia Catherine Burt is the first female finalist since Sabrina Gidda in 2014 and 2015.
  • Five out of the six finalists have got through on their first time of entering the competition: Ryan Baker, Olivia Catherine Burt, Adam Harper, Spencer Metzger and Lewis Linley.

The finalists were chosen following two regional finals, which took place on Thursday 14th March 2019at the University of West London, Ealing, and University College Birmingham.


In Birmingham (above): Alain Roux, Brian Turner, Simon Hulstone (scholar 2003), Angela Hartnett.

In London (above): Michel Roux Jr, Sat Bains (scholar 1999), Rachel Humphrey, James Martin and André Garrett (Roux Scholar 2002).

The challenge

This year’s challenge was to create a recipe to serve four people using one short saddle of hogget, weighing between 1.8kg and 2.2kg (bone-in, breast removed, without kidneys) and using four hogget kidneys (whole, suet removed); together served plated with two ‘simple’ or ‘composed’ garnishes/accompaniments. One of them had to be a potato rösti and the other to be a garnish/accompaniment of their choice. A sauce had to accompany the dish. Competitors had 2½ hrs to cook their dish, along with a dessert from a mystery box of ingredients given to them on the day. 

The 2019 mystery box

The brief was to prepare a dessert for four people using the ingredients supplied.
One ingredient could be omitted but at least 50% of the following ingredients had to be used:

200ml double cream 4 medium eggs 100g plain flour 100g golden syrup 150g unsalted butter   80g fresh ginger root   4 oranges 4 medium-sized Cox apples 500ml Thatchers Katy cider

Quotes from the chairmen:

Michel Roux Jr: “Amazing standard. Every year it just gets better and better and the correctness of the cooking and the seasoning was beyond reproach.”

Alain Roux: “There was a level of complexity in a lot of the dishes, which cannot be easy to execute at that level. The result was that the desserts were not so well-executed and they should have properly cooked and poached the fruit. All of the chefs showed an impressive level of skill. We would expect more simplicity next year. They need to improve their palate and need to taste their food.”

Comments from Birmingham judges:

Simon Hulstone: “You’ve got to factor in that if you’re not cooking in your own kitchen you should add half an hour to your preparation and cooking time. It meant that some struggled in the time given.”

Angela Hartnett: “One of the guys who went through had produced one of the best sauces I has even tasted in this competition. My advice would be to future entrants: when thinking about the paper entry, save time for the dessert.”

Comments from London judges said:

Sat Bains: “It’s a really good year – I’m impressed. It’s always difficult under pressure. It’s a really strong year and I enjoyed tasting all the food.”

James Martin: “They’d all practised, practised, practised, and you can tell. Those who’ve practised have really nailed it.”

National final – Monday 1st April 2019

The six finalists will compete for the title of Roux Scholar 2019 in the final, which takes place at Westminster Kingsway College, London. This time the recipe details will be a complete surprise; 30 minutes before the start of the competition the finalists will be given the recipe and ingredients for a main dish, either classic or modern and given three hours to prepare and present it to the judges.

Acclaimed Australian chef Peter Gilmore will join the panel of judges as Honorary President, alongside joint chairmen Alain and Michel Jr. They will be joined by Brian Turner, James Martin, Clare Smyth as well as previous winners Sat Bains (1999 scholar) and André Garrett (2002 scholar).

Award Ceremony

The 2019 Roux Scholar will be announced at a prestigious award ceremony at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, that same evening. The winner will receive £6000, a three-month stage at a three-star Michelin restaurant anywhere in the world, and a number of superb prizes from our sponsors.

Our sponsors

The Roux Scholarship is sponsored by a number of companies including: Aubrey Allen, Bridor, Cactus TV, The Caterer, Direct Seafoods, Global Knives, Hildon Natural Mineral Water, Champagne Laurent-Perrier, L’Unico Caffe Musetti, Mandarian Oriental Hyde Park, Mash Purveyors Ltd, Oritain, Qatar Airways, Restaurant Associates, TRUEfoods, and Udale Speciality Foods Ltd.

More details about all 18 chefs who competed and all of our sponsors are available on our website

Quotes from the finalists – coming later today [15th March].

Regional Prizes

Each competitor received the following gifts from our sponsors, as well as a commemorative certificate signed by all the judges:

  • A Kazoku set of three Global Knives.
  • A cafetière pot with coffee, courtesy of L’Unico Caffé Musetti.
  • A TRUEfoods notebook and tasting spoon.
  • A fruit hamper from Mash Purveyors.

Details of the National prize can be found here:

Editorial: From Economic Top Table To… (March 2019)

Posted on: March 13th, 2019 by Simon Carter
Donald Trump and Boris Johnson

Modern politics is characterised by demagogues like Trump and Johnson, who are an effect or symptom of a wider, silent and dramatic global economic transformation.  So what characterizes the old world of the 20th century and what of the new in the 21st century?

Post WWII, while parts of the world were in recovery mode, and many were in pure poverty (as they still are), the USA forged ahead with rapid expansion.  In the midst of a cold war raging with Russia, the global rise of the Amercian multi-national corporation was a significant symbol of 20th century financial power.  Indeed the USA luxuriated in their power as they had the scope to deter, through protectionism measures, such as sanctions or tariffs, any ‘rogue nation’ that threatened their prosperity.  Like the nuclear deterrent of the 20th century, economic sledgehammers awaited any economic audacity. 

Dramatic globalization of the internet with high bandwidth

In a very short period the landscape has changed in two very significant ways – first the emergence of a globalized high-bandwidth internet with associated knowledge, information and commerce – second, and partially as a direct consequence, the emergence of economically empowered nations such as China and India.  These two countries account for around 1/3 of the world’s population and are increasingly equipped through education and technology enablement to participate in the new economic world.

In the 20th Century these countries were content to be ‘feeders’ in the global system, perhaps helpless to change the global status quo – Japan, Europe and USA tied together trade deals that circumvented any natural economic pressures for change at that time.  It is worth noting that the global economic pie has steadily grown (by cumulative GNPs) but when one or two large players enter the global economic meal and want their slice, then other countries meals must get smaller.

Have the G7 or G20 (or perhaps soon G50), accidently taken their fork off the table or have they become philanthropic?  Consider the example of a US Executive who 30 years ago worked 9 to 5 in New York for $250,000.  Only his politically savvy or equally able colleagues in New York were an immediate threat to him, in a form of local competitive market for the $250,000 salary (it’s just another market).  Today, someone of similar education and ability lives in Shanghai and would be prepared to deliver that Executive’s responsibilities across an eight-hour shift, only they would do it in a world where technology allows the necessary knowledge and communication through the internet.  A third person, living in New Delhi is prepared to do the same, and what is more these two applicants may ask for no more than $50,000 each to do the job (in fact the market for that role would clear, the same as any other market, where demand meets supply globally at a given price, let’s assume that price is $50,000).  So it follows that the Executive role could be job shared 24 hours a day from three shifts of eight hours, for a total of $150,000 pa.  What chances the New York Executive keeps his job, never mind his salary. 

Discovered formerly in the late 18th century by economist Adam Smith and refined by Alfred Marshall in 1890, it has been subsequently understood that markets exist in any enabled space where buyers and sellers can meet and will clear at the point, with a given price, where demand meets supply. Many economies have found that they may fight market forces, typically to no avail, however the meeting place or platform for the market in the Executive example, was derived from the scope of function of the internet.  What if this were taken away? More on that in a moment…

Multi-national corporations, via another market mechanism, are driven to optimize profit to remain competitive and in so doing meet the needs of owners (shareholders) in their company.  In other words, if the corporation ‘protected’ employees from these 21st century global economic pressures, they would ultimately go out of business. Why? Competitors would follow the economic market provided by cheaper labour of equal quality found through the facilitating technology and make their cost bases fatally superior to the doomed protectionist organisation.

Apple and Samsung Global Entities

Yes, when China significantly floods the USA market with cheap steel, then 20th century methods may appear to protect the country but the leaders would, or should, know otherwise.  The reality is that the 20th century quality of life enjoyed in the USA and Europe is already looking very different.  Potentially, this will quickly change in the new 21st century digitally connected economic world.  Perhaps that symbol of power – the multi-national corporation – will cease to be called “American Multi-National” (Apple) or “Korean Multi-National” (Samsung) because should economic conditions dictate that it made more financial sense to become “global entities” then they would trade as such.  Why? If you extrapolate the example of the USA Executive in New York then every employee from CEO down would be paid what the global internet market would bear and live practically anywhere in the world – a pure global entity – and be the ultimate “capitalist dream.” 

Given where the USA and Britain have been, sitting at the top table for every meal, the consequences don’t bear thinking about.  Britain had riots on the streets in 2011 and 1981 when our domestic economic pie shrunk by less than 1%.  We’re so used to it expanding!!  What if it were to go down over a decade by 10%?  Revolution? Upheaval? A manufactured war, to bring us together?  Would that work in the knowledge saturated, cynical, 21st-century model of the world?  The terrorist threat of the late 20th century was labelled ‘asymmetric’ meaning ‘we’re very big, you’re very small (but dangerous)’ and not conforming to the previously understood threat of having allegiance to a particular country, in a similar way the globalized competition for jobs cannot be pinpointed to a particular company or attacked in any meaningful way and has an uncontrollable life of its own.

Ban the Internet?

In effect, the economic threat can only really be countered through being competitive (meaning sacrifice – $50,000 not $250,000) or removing the space, remember without the enabling space the market will not exist, in this case cyber-space.  Perhaps our establishment may actually even attempt to shut down the web! Watch this space! After all the internet is a vehicle for evil subversives, terrorists, horrible human beings and most of all fake news soooooo let’s get rid of it.  The Trump rhetoric has already begun!

So what else characterizes the 21st century landscape, and what of the future? Notably, we have seen the progressive fragmentation of groups of people by the traditional methods of geographical boundaries, be those boundaries countries or unions of countries. Russel Brand once said, “one day someone drew lines on a map and called what he had drawn a country, the notion of the country is just someone’s old idea, if the idea is no longer any good, then change it!”

George HW Bush 1991: New World Order

Europe as a Union is disintegrating, the failure of the USSR, the British Union under threat and perhaps even regional economic pressures bringing about the early signs of creaking at the seams of the USA. Groups of people are instead forming through common interest or other common ground, utilizing globalized cyberspace (where social media will extrapolate to who can say?). This is a counter force that is effectively pulling the human resource of the planet together into different forms of groupings and working in a different way to the regional frictions of traditional boundaries. Change is always painful and blame is made, historically the rich or poor, one race or another or the religiously inclined, take the brunt. Let’s hope not. Perhaps then, the longer term objective of the establishment – here comes the conspiracy theory – is as George HW Bush put it in September 1991 “A coming together (of people) in a New World Order, a world not governed by the rule of the jungle, but the rule of law!” A global government, in a globalized connected world, one cyber-currency, one language, one people – bring back John Lennon! Or is that Bob Marley?

Chef Interview: Mark Kempson, Kitchen W8 (March 2019)

Posted on: March 7th, 2019 by Simon Carter

Mark Kempson is the Head Chef of Kitchen W8. Chef and restaurant are celebrating ten years of a happy marriage in 2019. The restaurant has been in safe hands for co-owners Phil Howard and Rebecca Mascarenhas. Holding a Michelin star since 2011, the offering has developed and evolved as its successfully serviced the discerning clientele of the Abingdon Road, Kensington neighbourhood. Here, Mark speaks to Simon Carter of fine dining guide about his career to date, in addition he kindly provides an analysis of three signature dishes by the Michelin criteria for the awarding of stars* namely provenance, cooking technique and balance and harmony on a plate.

*See Interview with Michael Ellis, WW Director Michelin Guide (Oct 2017), where the criteria for awarding Michelin stars were first outlined.

Mark Kempson

For Mark Kempson, cooking as a career really came about by accident. The nearest paper round opportunity was the nearby Hartley Whitney village, which was too far away from Mark’s home in Eversley, so he ended up collecting glasses on a Sunday afternoon at a nearby Whitbread Brewers Fayre pub.  This built up over a couple of years, before one day a chef was off sick and he was asked to help out in the kitchen – the buzz of the service, the hectic environment, the fact that three or four pairs of hands would converge to create something, the pressure, the noise (some shouting), the heat – it triggered something in him as being appealing and exciting.

Having achieved reasonable grades at school, Mark studied a btec National Diploma in Hospitality, which was followed by NVQ Level 3 specialising in the kitchen and an HNC Level 4 Kitchen Management Course.  Across three years of education, he worked shifts at Blubeckers in Odium, a busy restaurant with 390 covers on a Saturday night with 120 of those covers in the first hour.  Just about everything was made on site with only five chefs in the kitchen which was an extraordinary experience, indeed instead of putting him off, it simply made Mark want to learn more.

Co-Owners Kitchen W8: Phil Howard, Rebecca Mascarenhas

Toward the end of college, Mark circulated his CV and fortunately Pennyhill Park responded, at that time Karl Edmunds was Executive Chef and Marc Wilkinson (most recently of Michelin starred Fraiche) was head chef at the hotel’s The Latymer Restaurant.  After starting during college holidays in banqueting, as soon as he graduated Mark started full time at the Latymer, which was a 3 AA Rosette restaurant. 

“Those were the days when a company like Wild Harvest (food produce supplier) was a man and a van, who somewhat romantically drove over from France, arrived at the hotel, opened the boot to show an extraordinary array of world class produce – baby veg, truffles, varieties of mushrooms, squab pigeons, lentils and so on.”

It was an eye opening learning experience about provenance.  What sheer quality means in terms of the love and care that goes into providing such great ingredients and the respect required in bringing the best out of them when cooking.

In 2004, Mark moved to John Campbell at The Vineyard, he started as a demi-chef de partie and over three years he worked his way up to Sous chef. Mark was part of the brigade awarded two Michelin stars (when that category was even more narrow than it is in the UK today and there’s only 20 in 2019). 

“John had the extraordinary ability to orchestrate, motivate and multi-task nineteen chefs to run a hotel kitchen, he was a special man manager.  It goes without saying, his palate and skills were right up there with the very best to enable him to deliver such great food in the main restaurant.”

Working in a luxury hotel in the countryside was great but the buzz of London appealed, at least Mark thought it did until he started under Phil Howard at The Square.  “The first three months were so difficult, I felt I had made a mistake, then suddenly the whole thing just clicked!”

New Kitchen W8 PDR (Private Dining Room)

The Square, another of that small breed of Michelin two star restaurants, was so different to what he had known before; an independent restaurant in the heart of London, packed every day, serving 80 to 90 at lunch, another 80 to 90 at dinner.  The Square was spending and making a lot of money; a packed front of house and the best of the best coming in through the back door with some serious food of a very high quality passing through those kitchen doors. 

Mark was promoted to sous chef within a year, he found watching Phil and Rob Weston (currently Head Chef at La Trompette) amazing; “you had to keep your eyes and ears open as there was so much to learn.” 

As an example, on one morning, we’d have a box of cepes coming in and chef would say, ‘what can we create that makes the best out of this product’, the spontaneity coupled with the intense creativity would bring out some of the best dishes that left that kitchen.

Kitchen W8

In 2009, Mark was thinking about what to do next and had a chat with Phil Howard.  Phil suggested that he and business partner Rebecca Mascarenhas were looking for a new site in Abingdon Road, Kensington.  Mark was to be offered the position of Head Chef and after discussions about the concept for the restaurant and the type of food that would be served, the doors of Kitchen W8 opened in October 2009.

For the opening, Mark wondered if Phil would be in the kitchen but instead he came to eat, in fact has never really never set foot in the kitchen, as he has trusted Mark’s ability.  They worked closely together for the first year to year and a half on menu creation (as perhaps this restaurant might have been perceived as a neighbourhood version of The Square), Mark was then given the creative opportunity to develop the menu going forward.  The Michelin Guide awarded a star in 2011 which has been retained ever since, something the whole team are so proud and delighted to have achieved.

Kitchen W8 Interior

To service 500-600 covers a week there is a brigade of nine chefs.  Every chef counts and there is no hiding place with those numbers.  To motivate chefs in the kitchen, Mark likes to lead by example, to work wherever in the kitchen he is best employed at any given time.  The creative process may start on paper at home, having looked through recipes, eaten out or browsed through social media, Mark gathers snippets from many sources.  This initial creative research process helps to stimulate taste memories, perhaps of forgotten ingredients, that will allow a dish to progressively come together in the kitchen. 

Where needed a recipe book of past successes may see dishes return in the appropriate season. The process begins with printing off the last three or four years menus and looking at how dishes evolved.  Supplier relationships are a key factor in returning certain dishes year to year.  Why?

Selection of Kitchen W8 Dishes

“It’s not about saving a couple of price points on product, its about quality shining through and with any great relationship it works for both parties and works both ways.  If times are tough for them, for example the weather is terrible and fishing is difficult, we know we can still get the best of the catch.  Likewise I can bring back dishes where suppliers have come through for me and guarantee them good business for a season.”

In menu terms, this is reflected by dishes based on quail or duck in January and February, moving to Huntercombe middle-white pork and Welsh lamb in March and April and say venison in early autumn and so on.  There will always be a balance of creativity and returning dishes to ensure motivation and focus remain strong.

Here below, Mark analyses three of his favourite dishes to create and to cook at Kitchen W8.

Signature Mackerel Starter

A signature dish is described on the menu as Grilled Cornish Mackerel, Smoked Eel, Sweet Mustard and Leek. This is a flavour driven dish, which is presented in a new way.  Having stripped back to the elements, perhaps certain proportions here and there changed but the overall dish has simply evolved and improved. There’s the earthiness of the beetroot dressed with a Chardonnay vinegar which enhances sweet and sour notes.  The smokiness of the eel works well with the Mackerel.  The Mackerel is cured and lightly cooked and then sprinkled with brown sugar powder before being blowtorched to give a crisp skin to counter the oiliness of the Mackerel flesh and the fattiness of the smoked eel.  Then some old school flavours are brought into the modern day; a kind of loose sauce Gribiche with mustard dressing, capers and cornichons provide some acidity to cut through and deliver balance to the dish.  Overall taste, texture, temperature and presentation are right for this dish and I’m delighted with the end product for customers.  Even my family won’t let me take this one off the menu.  

A second dish will be described on the spring menu as Gilted Head Sea Bream, Razor Clams, Smoked Sausage, Cider, Onions and Apple.  The bream is farmed so it is sustainable which is appropriate in the modern day. The farmed fish has a great skin to flesh ratio, which means that it pan fries beautifully. An emulsion is made from the cooking liquor of the razor clams. The idea of the home made smoked sausage stems from having a separate dish on the menu, which is fifty-five days aged Huntercombe middle-white pork and as we buy around a pig a week, all parts of the animal must be utilized. In this case the opportunity is to add a smoky shoulder meat sausage, balanced by pickled apple.  Overall there is a heady mix of smoky, sweet and sour with the pan-fried bream having a crispy skin, finished with some crispy fried onions.  The dish is garnished with tarragon to tie it all together.

A third dish this spring is Chocolate Panna Cotta, Hazelnut Ice Cream and Lime.  Chocolate tends to be on the menu in some form, as a guilty pleasure, so moving to spring the kitchen wanted to avoid a baked dish, instead aiming for something lighter, that is all about texture. This dish is about simply three elements delivering the flavour impact.  A seventy percent Valrhona chocolate panna cotta with a hazelnut ice cream that has a smooth elegant taste and texture, some lime zest provides the wakening of the palate. 

Kitchen W8 celebrates ten years this year, over which time Mark feels confident that he has developed and matured as both a chef and as a person.  He understands how a neighbourhood restaurant retains an identity, while attracting new business in 2019, and that aspects of this identity will have evolved from the one that worked in 2009.  So adapting over time has been important.

For a while the food may have become more complex, refined and artistic before evolving to become simply flavour driven, with customers enjoying a sense of a lighter touch.  The addition of the private dining room has been a real hit and the recent redecoration has added a light and airy feel to the dining room.  Above all, always honest and delicious food, well prepared, with strong ingredients is the constant mantra.