While two top chefs have been shortlisted in the senior category, up-and-coming talent has been recognised in the junior edition.
Ross Cochrane, executive chef of the Rothesay Rooms and The Carriage in Ballater and Graham Mitchell, head chef of The Newmachar Hotel have both been shortlisted in the Scottish Chef of the Year competition, organised by Scottish Chefs – The Federation of Chefs Scotland.
The duo are well-known chefs in the north-east culinary world and have decades of experience behind them.
However, they aren’t alone as Scott Farquharson, junior sous chef at The Chester Hotel in Aberdeen, who has worked at the premises twice over a period of three-and-a-half years, has also made the finals of the junior edition.
Both competitions will see eight chefs in each category battle it out to be named Scottish Chef of the Year.
Taking place every two years, the competition finals are usually held at food and drink show, ScotHot, which is not going ahead this year. Instead, the finals of both senior and junior competitions will be held across two days and will take place at West Lothian College in Livingston, on Tuesday, April 27 and Wednesday, April 28.
Second time lucky
Ross Cochrane, who also launched his own dine-at-home firm Roca Dining during the pandemic has been kept busy by customers across the north-east looking for a taste of fine dining.
This is his second consecutive time being shortlisted in the senior category, having taken home a bronze medal at the last event.
“The first time I did it was two years ago and there was a semi-final where you had to cook your dishes. I went to the final at ScotHot 19 which is a massive exhibition, similar to Taste of Grampian but in the SEC. I picked up a bronze medal then, and it was Orry Shand of Entier in Aberdeen who won that year (2019).
“The list of people in the finals is incredible and the line-up I would say is the strongest it has ever been. There’s so many well-known names and places like Gleneagles, The Seafood Ristorante and The Raby Hunt.
“I have a bit of time just now and I know I’ve been doing the dine-at-home with Roca Dining, but I think I’ll have to take some time to really refine all of the dishes I am working on. I’ll be using wild halibut for my starter, Wark Farm lamb for my main, and my dessert is a take on rhubarb and custard.
“I know how good these chefs are but I know what I can do in my kitchen, too, so we’ll see what happens. It is great to be in the final and it is something to look forward to. I haven’t really put much food on plates for nearly a year so it will be strange for everyone.”
Graham Mitchell, head chef at The Newmachar Hotel in Newmachar is also looking forward to getting back to serving.
Having also launched his own fine dining dine-at-home service, Tarragon Catering, he too has been kept busy over the past few months and says the competition this year is of an extremely high calibre.
He said: “I am absolutely buzzing to have been selected for the final of Scottish Chef of the Year!
“The competition takes place every two years and the line-up this year is one of the toughest I have seen. It just goes to show that even with Covid-19 and the hospitality industry being shut down and on its knees, that the standard of chefs out there is still high and that they are pushing and highlighting the best of Scottish produce.
“All of the entrants had to submit a four-course menu with recipes and pictures to the Scottish Federation of Chefs for the judging panel to select the top eight entries.
“It is a great thing for the north-east to have not one, but two chefs representing the area and obviously its great for The Newmachar Hotel and my catering and dine-at-home business Tarragon Catering. It will definitely help lift the profiles and highlight what I do.”
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Scott Farquharson, who has worked at The Chester Hotel twice over a period of three and a half years was delighted to make the finals of the 2021 Young Scottish Chef of the Year.
He is the only representative among the juniors for the north-east and will face seven others to take home the title.
Stephen Gow general manager of The Chester Hotel said: “We’re delighted to hear of this nomination for Scott; it’s a marvellous achievement.
“We’re always keen to support young talent in all department of the hotel and Scott is one of our rising stars in the kitchen.”
AND HERE’S THE JUNIOR LINE UP…Scottish Chefs are delighted to announce the 2021 finalists for this year's Scottish…
Kevin MacGillivray, president of Scottish Chefs – The Federation of Chefs Scotland, is looking forward to the event and is delighted it has been able to go ahead.
He said: “We usually host the finals at Scot Hot, but we’ve had to make other arrangements as it isn’t going ahead this year. Over the two days we’ll judge both categories and we will be following all Covid-19 restrictions and have social distancing etc. in place.
“The most important thing is that the chefs get to cook in a live final scenario as it adds that bit of pressure. Everyone cooks at the same time and there’s a three-hour cooking time will be allocated with half an hour set up time. All competitors are asked to produce an amuse bouche for the judges within 30 minutes of the start
of the competition and 50% of the mis-en-place for this can be done in advance.
“This year we’ve had one of the highest number of entries over the years. Historically we would have had a semi-final cook off for the seniors, but this year we did a paper judging with the Scottish Culinary Committee which we sit on the board of. We paper judged them on their recipes and their photographs. None of the judges saw the names or establishments of entrants so it was blind judged and we picked eight to make it to the final.”