A talented West Kent College student chef is keeping a cool-head about reaching the final stages of a prestigious national cookery competition.
Graham Kerry (pictured above), studying a Level 2 in Professional Cookery, will be competing against ten other student finalists in the annual Tabasco Brand Hot Chef Competition, in partnership with the Craft Guild of Chefs, which challenges entrants to create original dishes incorporating the famous spicy pepper sauce.
Graham impressed the judges in the initial stages of the competition and he was selected as one of 25 semi-finalists out of thousands of entrants nationwide. After tasting his creative semi-final dishes of duck Scotch egg with a spicy salsa & tabasco dressing and crab cannelloni with fresh tomato & asparagus, the judges then placed him in the top five, winning him a place in the final. Taking place at the Hotelympia at London’s Excel in March, the final heat will see Graham and the other competitors cook their dishes live at the event for a panel of judges and industry professionals. Dishes are assessed on flavour, creative use of at least one of the Tabasco pepper sauces and ease of service in a pub environment. The winner’s dish will then go on to feature on the menu of the UK-wide Stonegate pub and restaurant chain – with the prize also including an all-expenses paid trip to Avery Island, Louisiana, USA, where Tabasco Sauce has been made for 150 years by the McIlhenny Company.
Graham said: “Reaching the final is a fantastic opportunity to show off what I can do, what I've learned, and hopefully how I've progressed since the semi-finals. My feelings are about equal measures excitement and apprehension at this point, especially in an environment like Hotelympia, which is very open to public viewing – but competing in the semi-finals has given me a little bit more confidence in that regard. As long as I can do my best on the day then, win or lose, I can leave with my head held high. Of course, if I could win then that'd be just a fantastic bonus.
"I'd have never found out about the competition if my tutor hadn't let me know about it, and he strongly encouraged me to enter. I very much doubt I'd have entered any competitions without my tutors pushing me to do so though, so thanks very much to them.”
As part of the promotional lead-up to the event, competition judge and Tabasco Brand’s corporate chef, Gary Evans, visited West Kent College to deliver a two-hour inspirational workshop on how to cook using the brand’s sauces. With Gary’s guidance, our Professional Cookery students produced some delicious dishes, including Shakshuka (a Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce) and a chilli-spiced chocolate fondant, which was enthusiastically polished off by the Marketing department!
The group’s lecturer, Andrew Barker, said: “We’re hugely proud of Graham for reaching the finals – he’s a talented chef and his involvement has given his fellow students this great opportunity to take part in the workshop. It’s offered them the chance to experiment with some unusual flavour combinations and enhance their teamwork. They’ve produced some outstanding and varied dishes. “
You can see some of the action from the masterclass in the photos.
We wish Graham the best of luck in the finals!
Philip Orrell, Hadlow Group PR and Media Manager, Tel: 01732 372794, firstname.lastname@example.org