Celebrations are in order for two of the UK’s best pub chefs – Amy Houghton of The Shoulder of Mutton in Hebden Bridge, nominated by Craig Whittaker MP and Kevin MacLean of The Rat Inn, Hexham, nominated by Guy Opperman MP. The pair took the spotlight last night (7th February), as they were crowned winners at the Parliamentary Pub Chef of the Year Awards, held at the House of Commons.
West Yorkshire chef Amy Houghton of Shoulder of Mutton, Hebden Bridge was last night (7th February) awarded the ‘Parliamentary Young Pub Chef of the Year’ at a prestigious event hosted at the House of Commons.
Calder Valley MP, Craig Whittaker, nominated 28 year-old Amy, chef at the Shoulder of Mutton, in November last year commending her cooking passion and skill and bright future.
Since then, Amy has had to work for her new title, first submitting an entry that led to her being chosen as one of eight finalists from 133 nominated chefs and then in January, attending a finalists’ cook off in London.
Judge and chef Roger Rahaman from competition sponsor Nestlé Professional, enthused about Amy’s exquisite Saddle of Venison, saying: “It was a stand-out dish – classic, accomplished, with great presentation and a lovely fruity flavour which beautifully complimented the meat.” Amy served the dish with Fondant Potatoes, Macerated Blackberries, Two-Way Shallots (Braised & Charred, Pickled) Celeriac Purée, Pan Roasted Butternut Squash and Blackberry Jus dish.
Having supported Amy throughout the competition and attending the Westminster event to see Amy receive her award, Mr Whittaker, said: “I am absolutely over the moon to hear that Amy has won Parliamentary Pub Chef of the year! It is a fantastic achievement and a well-deserved title for a very talented young lady. Amy has a very bright future and I could not be more pleased for her.”
Being presented with the award by Mike Wood MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group, an almost speechless Amy said: “I’m in shock, I really am. I was happy with my dish, but I didn’t think for a minute that I’d won. I’m my own biggest critic and it was a tough competition, the standard was really high. I chose to do venison for the cook-off because I love it, it’s probably one of my favourite meats. The town I live in is really small, so I went for things that I knew I could source locally, that would complement the dish well.
“Everyone was really routing for me back in the pub, they were actually live streaming the awards ceremony tonight in front of the customers so they saw that I’d won at the same time I found out! Winning has given me more confidence in myself and I would really like to thank my MP Craig Whittaker for nominating me. Coming to the House of Commons tonight has been amazing, but so surreal, I feel as if I’m dreaming – I’ll have to open the box and look at the award in the morning to remember that this really did happen!”
Hexham MP, Guy Opperman, nominated Kevin, who has been at the Rat Inn since 2015 and already earned it a place in the UK’s top 50 gastro pubs, back in August of last year commending his seasonal dishes created from produce sourced from the Northumbrian countryside.
Since then, Kevin has had to work for his new title, first submitting an entry that led to him being chosen as one of eight finalists from 133 nominated chefs. In January, at a finalists’ cook off in London, having crafted a dish of Pan Fried Brill, Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Razor Clam, Parsley and Hazelnut Salad with a Wild Mushroom Fricassée in just 60 minutes, Kevin’s talents paid off as judges hugely impressed by the dish, decided he really was Pub Chef of the Year.
Having supported Kevin throughout the competition and attending the Westminster event to see Kevin receive his award, Mr Opperman, said: “The Rat Inn is one of the finest pubs we have in the Hexham constituency and I am delighted that Kevin has been recognised for his fantastic food. It was a wonderful evening and congratulations to Kevin on a great achievement.”
After being presented with the award by Mike Wood MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group Kevin added: “It’s an honour to win and I would personally like to thank Guy Opperman for nominating me in the first place. Hopefully the profile of this competition will keep rising and rising and bring more chefs into the industry, which in turn will raise the awareness of the great British pub and all the good food and great work all these people across the country are doing. It is a great experience to be here at the House of Commons and part of such a huge event, winning really topped it all off!”
Run by the British Beer & Pub Association and the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group, in partnership with Nestlé Professional, the event was a huge success with over 80 selected attendees from the education, media and pub industry including celebrity chef and judge, Paul Merrett.
Over 130 nominations were received from MPs around the country who selected a pub chef from within their constituency for the awards. The competition was intense, making for an onerous task of whittling the nominees down to four finalists in each of the two categories. A cook-off was staged in January where each of the finalists had the opportunity to demonstrate their creativity and flair in presenting a dish to the select panel of judges before an interview with the judges. The tension has been mounting in the run-up to the results.
Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive, British Beer & Pub Association:
“The standard of cooking on display in this year’s competition really was outstanding, all of the finalists should feel very proud of what they have achieved.
“Particular congratulations must go of course to the winners, Kevin and Amy, who displayed such flair and passion for their food. Pubs are increasingly home to some of the best British chefs which is very exciting for the future of our sector.”
Charlotte Ponti, Savoury Foods Manager at Nestlé Professional UK: “This year’s standards have been really impressive. Not only the participants were creative and technically excellent, but they also demonstrated strong work ethic and drive. It is exciting to see that there are such great talents in pubs and promising of a bright future. All the participants can be really proud of what they achieved and we wish them lots of success.”
List of Judges:
Mike Wood MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group; Roger Rahaman, Nestlé Professional Chef; Paul Merrett, TV guest chef presenter and former Michelin Star holder; Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association; Paul Dickinson, Director of Food, Fuller’s; Ashley McCarthy, Chef/Patron of the award-winning ‘The Sun Inn’ at Colton near Tadcaster and Dawn Redman, Director at Hospitality Jobs UK.
Details re dishes –
Young Pub Chef of the Year
- WINNER – Amy Houghton of Shoulder of Mutton Inn, Hebden Bridge
Dish: Saddle Of Venison, Fondant Potatoes, Macerated Blackberries, Two-Way Shallots (Braised & Charred, Pickled) Celeriac Purée, Pan Roasted Butternut Squash and Blackberry Jus
- Michael di Bella of The Dean Inn
Dish: Fillet Of Brill, Roasted Squash, Squash Purée, Hazelnut Crumb, Celeriac Fondant, Picked Celeriac, Fish Velouté, Purple Roasted Broccoli, Parsley & Chive Oil
- Gordon Stott of The Sun Inn, Dummer
Dish: Saddle Of Venison, Bubble & Squeak, Blackberry Jam, Rainbow Chard Red Wine Jus And Caramelised Hazelnuts
- Ben Morgan of The Plough Inn, Ealing
Dish: Roasted Brill, Lemon Pureé, Razor Clams with a Bouillabaisse Foam
Pub Chef of the Year
- WINNER – Kevin MacLean of The Rat Inn, Anick near Hexham
Dish: Pan Fried Brill, Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Razor Clam, Parsley and Hazelnut Salad with a Wild Mushroom Fricassée
- Oliver Farrar of The Durham Ox, Crayke
Dish: Mushroom and Hazelnut Crusted Fillet Of Brill, Jerusalem Artichoke Pureé, Sautéd Wild Mushrooms, Braised Shallots and a Razor Clam Gratin
- Ryan Lamb of The Tally Ho, Broughton
Dish: Pan Seared Venison, Pickled Beets, Beetroot, Confit Potatoes, Red Win Jus, Sprout Shells And Wild Mushrooms
- Craig Jeffery of The Ship Inn, Wadebridge
Dish: Pan Fried Brill, Jerusalem Artichoke Purée and a Chive and Wild Mushroom Gnocchi