While a Fife-based and a Perthshire-based chef have been shortlisted in the senior competition, a Fife college student has made it through to the finals of the junior edition.
Jamie MacKinnon, head chef at The Seafood Ristorante in St Andrews and Dan Ashmore, head chef at The Strathearn in Gleneagles, have both been shortlisted in the Scottish Chef of the Year competition, organised by Scottish Chefs – The Federation of Chefs Scotland.
Both Jamie and Dan are well-known in the Fife and Perthshire culinary scene and have made their mark on their respective eateries.
But they won’t be heading into the final alone as recently-graduated Fife college student Eilidh Smith, who has since gone to work at The Ivy in Edinburgh, has been shortlisted in the finals for the junior competition.
Both the senior and junior competitions will see eight chefs in each category battle it out to be named Scottish Chef of the Year.
Taking place every second year, the finals are usually held at food and drink extravaganza, ScotHot, which has been cancelled this year. Instead, the finals will be held across two days at West Lothian College in Livingston, on Tuesday, April 27 and Wednesday, April 28.
‘Be better this time’
Jamie MacKinnon, whose team at the Seafood Ristorante have been creating dine-at-home boxes and hampers for occasions such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day, while their restaurant remains closed, says he is excited to have another go at the finals after coming in second last time.
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He said: “I was runner up the last time, so hopefully I can go on and be better this time! It’s just the whole being able to cook for something that was great as the restaurant has been closed in ages. It’s been a nice distraction and something now to look forward to, along with everything opening up again.
“The entry system is different this time around as normally there’s a semi-final, during which you would go and cook for the judges, then whoever cooks the best obviously gets through to the final.
“They haven’t done a semi-final stage this year, so it was paper judged. You had to put an entry in with photographs of your dishes and the methods you used etc. Then it was paper judged down to a final eight.
“I tried to use as much Scottish and local Fife produce as I can. The amuse bouche bit you have to do is sponsored by the Scottish Salmon Company so you were encouraged to use their products. I did a salmon, beetroot and horseradish tart for that course.
“The next course was lobster, so being in St Andrews, we get all our lobsters from a direct supplier who goes out fishing for them himself, called Pete Murray. So I used his lobsters for that. Then there was lamb for the main course, which was a spring lamb and then used some Katy Rodgers’ Crowdie for my dessert.”
First time around
Competing against Jamie is first-time entrant Dan Ashmore, who runs The Strathearn Restaurant under executive chef Simon Attridge at Perthshire’s prestigious Gleneagles Hotel.
He said: “This was my first year entering and I am delighted to reach the finals. I received an email on Friday morning congratulating me on reaching it and it was a really nice surprise and a great start to the weekend!
“This year it was actually a paper judgment on our menus if we were to get through to the finals. So I’ve got Hebridean salmon, beautiful scallops and roe deer from the borders on there.
“Reaching the final is a great honour, especially after seeing who else is in the final alongside me.
“It’s great to be selected amongst some fantastic chefs and a few friends in there as well.”
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.”
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