Just three months after becoming sous chef at the Loch Fyne Restaurant in Loughton, Essex, Ethan Rogers has won the company's inaugural sous chef competition.
Rogers, 23, served a starter of shellfish linguine, followed by a main course of pan-fried scallops and black pudding with confit lemon and a dill beurre blanc, to clinch first place at the finals held in Scotland last month. He beat fellow finalists Steve Murnslow and Stephan Munier, of the Elton and Oxford Loch Fyne restaurants respectively.
The trio competed in a three-hour cook-off in the sparingly equipped kitchen at the 1907 baronial-style Ardkinglas House at Cairndow, in Argyllshire.
Sharing an eight-burner domestic range and one wooden table, they found themselves having to do without many of the gadgets they are used to in their own kitchens.
The competition was set up in June to encourage the company's 19 sous chefs to think about the next stage of their careers, by creating a starter and a main course suitable for inclusion on the Loch Fyne Restaurants' menu.
Competitors were required to take into consideration price and operational ease as well as taste, texture and presentation.
The Loch Fyne menus specialise in the oysters and mussels farmed on the Ardkinglas estate and local salmon smoked in the smokehouse adjacent to the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar in Cairndow. Locally sourced scallops and langoustines are also important menu features.
"We have more restaurant openings planned so we want to encourage our sous chefs to develop within the company," said Mark Derry, managing director of Loch Fyne Restaurants.
He led the competition's judging panel alongside Andy Lane, managing director of Loch Fyne Oysters, Steve Jones, national account manager of event sponsor Brake Grocery, and assistant Chef editor Diane Lane.
LFR openings this autumn include outlets in Knowle in Solihull, West Midlands, and Egham, Surrey.
Derry said: "What we're looking for are dishes in keeping with our relatively simple menu, showing a bit of innovation and preferably using products we grow or traditionally have in the Loch Fyne Restaurants."
Rogers trained at the Isle of Wight College, then at London's Dorchester hotel. Until joining Loch Fyne Restaurants as a chef de partie 10 months ago, he worked as a demi chef de partie at the Petersham hotel in Richmond, Surrey, under Andy Johns.
"It's my first competition," Rogers said. "I've never really considered entering one before.
"It was good to have to take into account practicalities such as costing, which I've never done before. But I've had plenty of guidance from my head chef, Adrian Weston."
Both the runners-up received cash prizes, while Rogers won an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Barcelona.
He will also see his two dishes added to the menus at the company's 19 restaurants.
by Diane Lane