Young Hospitality stars recognised by Chaîne GB

Three new rising stars of the hospitality world were unveiled this week at the Chaine des Rotisseurs GB Young Professional Awards, held at the newly opened Harrods Social by Jason Atherton. Over 60 guests joined the three chef and three sommelier finalists for a faultless and signature lunch to celebrate their achievements.

Liam Rogers, 25, of Gleneagles in Scotland- and a former MasterChef; The Professionals finalist – was crowned Young Chef of the Year, and goes forward to compete in the World Championships in Mexico tat the beginning of October.

In the sommelier contest, Frederick Johnson, also 25, from the Fat Duck, Bray won the coveted Young Sommelier of the Year title. He will represent Great Britain against the rest of the world this September in Wiesbaden, Germany. The best palate in the competition – Polish Magdalena Babik, 22, and now at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons – was awarded the Gerard Basset Trophy in honour of the much-missed sommelier and educator. And member of the Chaine. Both Freddie and Magdalena were competing in their first-ever competitions.

It just goes to show what superb young talent we have in the industry now, and we are proud to be nurturing these embryonic and promising careers’ explains Phillip Evins, Bailli Délégué for the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs GB. ‘The Chaine congratulates these worthy winners, and wishes them every success in the future, We will certainly see more of them, I am sure

Warrington-born Liam beat two young chefs from Grantley Hall in North Yorkshire - runner up Daniel Parker and highly commended Thomas Wyper. Cooking in the Knorr kitchens in Leatherhead, all the chef finalists were asked to create and execute a three-course meal for four in 3 hours, from a ‘surprise’ box of ingredients. Liam’s winning menu, centred around lemon sole with brown shrimp butter; poached ballotine of chicken with chorizo and a rhubarb dessert with crème fraiche, tarragon and a sable biscuit, is listed below.

A mystery box is always tough, but I think my experience on Master Chef certainly taught me to hold my nerve, and keep cool under pressure’ he commented. ‘I was definitely focussed.’ That focus has been there all his life. ‘I’ve always wanted to be a chef, right from an early age. There was no doubt about it’, he explains. Liam’s father owned a restaurant in Warrington, and young Liam helped out in the kitchens from the age of 12. ‘It was the only way I got to see my Dad, apart from Sundays’ he laughs, ‘but that got me hooked’. After catering college, Liam spent some time at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, and then moved to Sat Bains in Nottingham. It was there that he was encouraged to enter Master Chef. ‘I got to the last three in the Finals – it was amazing. I was only 24, and the youngest chef in the competition from the quarter finals onwards.’

Late last year, Liam returned to Gleneagles, this time as sous chef in the Strathearn restaurant. When he heard about the Chaine’s competition and the chance to go to Mexico, he signed up immediately. ‘I am so excited. It’s a place I have always wanted to visit, Now, after three competitions, I have finally come back with a W for Win! My Dad was the first person I texted with the news.’

Young Sommelier of the Year, Freddie Johnson from Fulham was equally thrilled to win. ‘I am delighted -and quite surprised as this was then first competition i have ever entered. I’m now studying for the MS qualification, so this gives me wonderful experience.’ He beat off stiff competition in the exacting theory and practical somms final, held at the Double Tree Hilton, Kensington recently, where Magdalena Babik from Le Manoir came second and Ryan Duffy of Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles took Highly Commended.

Freddie jokes that he is a failed chef, and a failed academic – until he discovered wine. ‘Nothing really grabbed me at school, but I did have a passion for food and wine’. So he went to Tante Marie in Woking, graduated and joined the brigade at Trinity in Clapham. But he never forgot a short course on wine given by John Downes MW. ‘It really appealed’, he recalls. ‘I like accruing information – I suppose I am a bit of a nerd’. Not sure that cooking was for him, he joined fledgling Vagabond Wines, and realised he wanted to take wine seriously. Plumpton College and a degree in wine and business studies followed, and then Phil Howard snapped him up for his Church Road restaurant. Lockdown meant there was little time to spend on the floor, so instead young and ambitious Freddie took over the wine list – growing it to 120 listings – and as the only sommelier, developed staff training. ‘However, after a year, I knew I needed more experience, and to learn from the best’, So Freddie went to The Fat Duck, where he is now one of eight in the somms team, working with sommeliers from all over Europe. ‘It’s quite a learning curve, but I am proud of what I have achieved already. It has certainly stood me in good stead today, he sums up. I suppose you could call me a rough diamond, now being polished!’.

Another first timer, Magdalena Babik, also came into wine through a circuitous route. She was awarded the coveted Gerard Basset Trophy for the best score in the blind tasting and food & wine matching sections. At the age of 19, Magdalena came to University in London from Poland, and to fund her studies worked part-time in one of Fullers’ pubs. From there she worked her way up to the impressive Parcel Yard venue at Kings Cross station. ‘I learned so much so quickly – and really loved it. It was then that I decided to ditch my studies and become a sommelier’ .With WSET qualifications under her belt, she landed a job at Le Manoir outside Oxford, and almost a year later is one of the senior sommeliers, specialising in wine pairings. ‘Wine has always been my hobby and passion – and now I get to work with it every day’, she smiles.

Now the Young Chef and the Young Sommelier of the Year start their preparations for the Chaine’s International Finals this auctumn, ably coached by their mentors and judges.

Philip Evins rounded off the proceedings at Harrods by thanking all the sponsors of the Young Professional Awards. ‘We are extremely grateful to Bidfoods for the comprehensive mystery boxes, Wright Bros for the seafood, Bragard for the embroidered chefs’ jackets, Zweisel glass, Nyetimber, Knorr and Mosimanns for all their help with the competitions, and of course Harrods and the Social brigade for the excellent lunch. Ben Purton, Operations Manager for Harrods Restaurants – and our Head Judge for the Chefs – made it all possible.

Liam Rogers’ winning menu:

  • Starter: Lemon sole with parsley emulsion, poached artichoke and brown butter with shrimps.
  • Main; Poached ballotine of chicken with chicken mousse, chorizo and sweetcorn fricassee, chorizo jam, wilted spinach and crispy chicken skin;
  • Dessert; Poached rhubarb, rhubarb puree, whipped crème fraiche with tarragon and a sable biscuit.
Date postedMay 27, 2022
Author Fiona Campbell

This news item is from the Grande Bretagne Bailliage, see more Grande Bretagne News.