A 29-year-old sous chef from Lucknam Park in Colerne, Wiltshire, has been named 2009 Roux Scholar. Hrishikesh Desai, who works with the Michelin-starred chef Hywel Jones at the luxury, country house hotel, won the title following a fierce cook-off in the kitchens of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park this afternoon.
The announcement was made by Albert Roux at a Champagne reception this evening. Desai (pictured left with Alain Roux) commented: “The Roux Scholarship is the competition as far as I’m concerned and I’ve entered before but failed to reach the finals. I am so relieved to have managed to win after just one attempt at the final.”
Desai, who credited Hywel Jones as being the “driving force” behind his recent career, and his fellow competitors were judged by Albert, Michel, Michel Junior and Alain Roux, Heston Blumenthal, Andrew Fairlie (the first winner of the Roux Scholarship title), David Nicholls, Gary Rhodes, Brian Turner and guest judge, Bloomberg food critic Richard Vines.
Competitors were asked to cook brill cherubin, from Larousse Gastronomique, along with spinach croquettes in two hours. Michel Roux said: “This was a dish that demanded very precise organisation, technique and preparation. Hrishikesh is someone who totally understands cooking, he has a natural gift, balancing superb organisation with flavour. His dish was beautifully cooked – he is a very clear winner, from six high quality finalists.”
He added: “Hrishikesh presented one of the best dishes we have seen, he was one of the most organised and steady chefs we have judged, with a perfect attitude and great skill. It is the first time I have spoken of a competitor this well.”
Among the prizes Desai will receive is a three month stage at three-Michelin-starred restaurant, £5,000 courtesy of the Savoy Educational Trust to be used to enhance his education, a week’s paid work experience in New York, courtesy of Restaurant Associates, an expenses-paid trip to Champagne Gosset in Ay and a trip to visit the Caffe Musetti roasting factory in Milan.
The other five finalists received £1,000 to further their education from the Savoy Educational Trust and a day’s butchery course from Fairfax Meadows, among other things.
The 2009 finalists:
Helene Andersen, Ambassade de I’lle, London
Quinton Bennett, The Westbury Mayfair, London
Hrishikesh Desai, Lucknam Park Hotel, Colerne*
Christopher Golding, Nahm Restaurant, London
Stephen Stevens, Porth Tocyn Hotel, Abersoch
Kevin Sutherland, BaxterStorey, London
Watch out for our Roux Scholarship 2009 video on Caterersearch.com tomorrow.