images%5B4%5D.jpgI’ve just got in from the Academy of Culinary Arts’ 25th annual awards of excellence, which were held at Claridges. What a spectacular night!
I need to get to sleep soon (I am meeting Marco Pierre White for lunch tomorrow to discuss his forthcoming Caterer guest editorship, and that’ll require all the energy I can muster) but I’ll briefly fill you in on the event.
The awards, which reward the best young people under the age of 26 working as chefs, pastry chefs or in service, were co-hosted by Brian Turner and Ritz Hotel Exec Chef, John Williams, who did a nice Two Ronnies turn onstage.
Sometimes you have to pinch yourself when you see your table plan: I was sat with Ramon Pajares, Michel Roux, Richard Shepherd, Jane Asher and Gerald Scarfe, among others.

Shep was full of great stories as usual. He told of the time the kitchen at Langham’s caught fire. “There was smoke coming up through the parquet floor. Everyone had to go outside onto Stratton Street – and they all took their glasses and plates with them!” Once the fire brigade had doused the fire, Shep went in to view the damage, and just as he reached the kitchens the phone rang – it was the Daily Mail saying they had heard there had been a fire and that the restaurant was ruined. “We’ll be open tomorrow” replied a defiant Shep, before telling all his staff to call in husbands, wives, partners – anyone who could help clean up. Taxis were despatched to seek out all the mops in central London, and gradually the kitchens were sorted out. by the next day, the brigade was able to serve 220 people, without extraction or electricity: “when one cook passed out from the heat I sent another in to replace them”, said Shep.
Back to tonight’s dinner, which was superb:
* Ballotine of foie gras with ginger-scented Crispa gooseberry crumble
* Pavé of River Tay wild salmon with Scottish samphire and lemon
* Roast rack of Kent lamb with wood sorrel and sweet garlic jus, Jersey Royals, fricassée of asparagus and broad beans
* Bubbilicious lychee, rose and Tulameen raspberry
(Wood sorrel is my new favourite flavour, but I don’t know what Tulameen is – can anyone help me?)
The winners, by category, were:
Joshua Duncan, The Commonwealth Club
Nick Hewitt, Chewton Glen
Peter Liese, Hartwell House
Ashley Paynton, Roux Fine Dining
Adam Thomson, New Hall Hotel
Rhodri Williams, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
Matthew Forbes, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
Craig Gent, Opus Restaurant
Andrea Reiss, The Lanesborough
Will Torrent, Richings Park Golf Club
Adrien Boutet, Morton’s Club
Antonio Bruno, Bath Priory Hotel
Julie Doig, Gleneagles Hotel
Davide Durante, The Ritz
Karim Le Cloarec, 30 St Mary Axe
Richard McGookin, Catch 22, Glasgow
Romain Mejecaze, Gleneagles Hotel
Christopher Peck, Gleneagles Hotel
Barbara Riotti, The Goring Hotel
The category winners were:
Joshua Duncan
Will Torrent
Christopher Peck
Well done to all of them!