We are incredibly proud to be celebrating the success of our Head Chef, Billy, and Sous Chef, Mark, who competed in the Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef Team of the Year competition on Tuesday 21 March. Their stunning, locally sourced dishes impressed top industry judges and saw them win the coveted Gold Award!
International Salon Culinaire, alongside Hotel, Restaurant & Catering (HRC) hosted their competition event at ExCeL London from 20-22 March. The event aims to provide seasoned chefs a platform to showcase their outstanding culinary skills and delicious dishes across a series of competitions.
Our Head Chef, Billy, and Sous Chef, Mark, partnered for the two-person competition ‘Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef Team of the Year 2023’, which was sponsored by Waitrose & Partners. During the live theatre 60-minute competition, their brief was to produce two portions of a selection of bowl food that they would recommend for a stand-up event aimed at 20 covers plus, making sure content is sufficient to provide enough substance for an evening meal. They had to produce three to five plates/bowls, including at least one dessert. In partnership with Waitrose, another key element of the criteria was to include at least three of their ingredient products.
The competition attracts many of the UK’s top industry chefs, including Monica Galetti. Judges were scoring competitors on aspects such as ease of service, balance, content, skills, flavours, tastes, and the use of the sponsors products in the dishes presented.
Billy and Mark chose to theme their menu on celebrating the ‘Best of Local’, which along with sustainability and seasonality, perfectly encapsulated their values as chefs. We are one of only a few schools in England to source our meat from a local community business that controls the entire farm-to-fork process. By using locally sourced meat, we are committed to an ethical approach with high welfare standards, which importantly provides benefits to the health and wellbeing of our community and has a positive impact on the environment and the local area.
We are thrilled that their incredible, locally sourced dishes astounded the judging panel. They received high praise for all aspects of their delicious dishes, including their theme, and won the coveted Gold Award.
Take a look at the details of their award-winning menu, below:
Local Hero – Court Lodge Farm Yoghurt
Sponsors Ingredients – Vadouvan Spice Blend and Spicy Onion Tadka
Our local hero for this dish is a set, natural, bio-live, organic yoghurt produced by Court Lodge Farm in Wartling, Sussex. The values of the farm’s owners, David and Marian, reflect our own. They are wildlife lovers and care as much about their local environment and sustainability as they do about their free-range, grass-fed, organic dairy cows. That is why we are so keen to showcase their product as part of our ‘Best of Local’ theme. In this dish, which showcases our skills in Indian cuisine, the yoghurt is expertly balanced with several layers of flavour. The palette is allowed to appreciate them all in our refined version of this incredible Indian street food favourite, Chaat. The dish uses two of our sponsor’s ingredients: Vadouvan Spice Blend and Spicy Onion Tadka. It is the spiciest addition to the menu, and being vegetarian, it brings balance to our menu, with fish, poultry, red meat, and dessert dishes to follow.
Sussex Chalk Stream Trout with a Sorrel and Yuzu Sauce
Local Hero – Fins & Forks Chalk Stream Trout
Sponsors Ingredient – Yuzu
Our local hero for this dish is chalk stream trout. We have worked with a small South Downs based company, Fins and Forks, to create a bespoke product for this competition. We have done a light cure, and then cold smoked the fillet for 24 hours. The line caught trout is from a local fishery supplied by water from a chalk stream. The chalky earth found in West Sussex is also key to the production of the award-winning English sparkling wines, which will be showcased in our poussin dish. The base of the sauce is rich; however, the citrus from the seasonal sorrel and our sponsor’s Yuzu Juice cuts through this richness, making it the perfect accompaniment for this champion trout.
Heads and Tails Pulled Pork Pie with Truffle Pomme Puree, Buttered Spinach a Crumb of Smoked Belly Bacon, Black Pudding and Crispy Onion Served with a Red Wine Jus
Local Hero – Downland Meats Free Range Pork
Sponsors Ingredient – Truffle Salt
Our local hero for this dish is pork. At St John’s School, we are so proud that 100% of our red meat comes from our local producer Downland Farm. They are the only farm-to-fork operation in control of the whole process in the South East of England. Their North Downs based farms are close to the School where we work. All their rare-breed livestock is slowly grown, free-range and pasture-fed. We have worked extremely closely with Downland to reduce the carbon footprint and plastic packaging of our meat. Downland care so much for their animals, and we share a head to tail philosophy, knowing that a lot of flavour can come from unpopular and unused parts of the animal. This dish and its playful title perfectly demonstrate how much flavour comes from the head and tail meat, parts of the animal abattoirs often put to waste.
Breast of Poussin, Scotch Egg, Carrot and Honey Puree, Locally Foraged Nettle Crisp, Wild Garlic Emulsion, Garlic Flowers, Shio Koji and Nutty Vintage Sparkling Sauce
Local Hero – Nutbourne Vineyards English Sparkling Wine, Nutty Vintage + Locally Foraged Seasonal Wild Garlic and Nettles
Sponsors Ingredient – Shio Koji
Our local heroes for this dish are an English sparkling wine as well as locally foraged wild garlic and nettles. West Sussex has been touted as the next Champagne, with some of the biggest Champagne houses scrambling to buy up land. It shares the same chalky earth that runs from Champagne under the English Channel to Sussex. The chalky hills that make up the North and South Downs either side of the county protect the vines from harsh coastal weather. These wines are doing very well at international award ceremonies, and we are using gold medal winning Nutty Vintage from Nutbourne Vineyard in Pulborough to make the sauce for this dish. We are also adding the sponsor’s Shio Koji to the sauce for extra umami flavour.
Chocolate Sphere, with Brownie, Malt Chocolate Mousse and Miso Caramel
Local Hero – J Cocoa Chocolate
Sponsors Ingredient – Miso Butter
Our local hero for this dish is chocolate. Sussex-based J Cocoa is one of only few producers in the UK who imports ethically sourced cocoa beans. The owner, James, extracts the nib and butter, removes the shell, and turns this into chocolate, all in his self-built chocolate factory in his parents’ back garden. His single bean chocolates are all unique and have eye-opening flavours. Working with James, we chose a 55% milk chocolate using Chuno cocoa beans from Bocay in Nicaragua because of its malty flavour. Furthermore, we have used a Peruvian cocoa in the brownie. This all pairs with a miso butter caramel made using our sponsor’s Miso Butter.