"If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again" is the lesson from this year’s competition as Spud Henderson is crowned the UK's Game Chef of the Year after entering for the last five years.
Spud, who is a chef at Craig Millar @ 16 West End in Fife, took the title yesterday following a tense 2 and a half hour cook off at University College Birmingham. Panteleimon Bazinis of Emmanuel College in Cambridge was named runner up.
Chefs from across the UK had previously showcased their dishes at regional semi finals at Leiths School of Food & Wine, London and Ayrshire College, Scotland, with 8 being chosen for the final. The chefs prepared two game based dishes, one starter and one main course, for the Michelin star judging panel; Matt Abé (Restaurant Gordon Ramsay), Stephen McLaughlin (Restaurant Andrew Fairlie), Geoffrey Smeddle (The Peat Inn) and Michael Smith (Loch Bay Restaurant), led by Chairman of Judges Ian McAndrew (Blackaddie House Hotel).
Spud impressed the judges by tweaking his starter and taking on board advice from the judges at the semi final stage. Judges were also particularly impressed with his main course of venison wellington with three Michelin Star chef Matt Abé describing the dish as ‘fantastic’.
Judge Stephen McLaughlin said, "As shocked as he was, Spud is a very deserving winner of this year’s award. He is a great example of what hard work, determination and raw talent can achieve."
Having entered the competition for the last five years, previously making it to the final once in 2015, Spud’s perseverance and love for game have eventually paid off. He said, "I just wanted to show how much I have learned about game over the years. I just love cooking with it and a competition like this was a challenge I set to help gain experience and better myself."
Spud who currently does not have a passport will be making a fast track application to the passport office this week in the hope of getting one in time to jet off to Sweden next Thursday. The winners prize includes three nights Michelin Star dining and a once in a lifetime wild boar courtesy of competition sponsors Braehead Foods and Highland Game.
Chairman of judges, Ian McAndrew, who has been on the panel since the competition started and will be back for the 10th anniversary of the competition next year said; "With the quality of entries improving year on year, the Game Chef of the Year competition is fast becoming the competition to win for all quality chefs wanting to test themselves. The prizes for those involved are both extremely generous and different to other competitions as they should be for such a prestigious event. Game is such a versatile and varied product that brings so much to a menu and is always popular with customers that a menu without any game on it is incomplete and to be able to use it well is a real skill."
The winning dishes were:
Starter: Duck, Ravioli and Spiced Broth
Main Course: Venison Wellington with Jerusalem Artichoke, Onion, Wild Mushroom and Brussel Sprouts
The 10th annual Game Chef of the Year will launch in August this year, for more information please visit www.gamechefoftheyear.org or follow Game Chef of the Year on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Previous Game Chef of the Year Winners:
- 2019 Ross Cochrane, The Rothesay Rooms, Aberdeenshire
- 2018 Jonathon Ferguson, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Perth
- 2017 Steven Walker. Loch Lomond Golf Club, Argyll & Bute
- 2016 Lorna McNee, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Perth
- 2015 Martin Zahumensky, Playboy Club, London
- 2014 Tom Van Zeller, Van Zeller Restaurants, Harrogate
- 2013 Orry Shand, Number One @ The Balmoral, Edinburgh
- 2012 Brian Grigor, Number One @ The Balmoral, Edinburgh