Young Seafood Chef of 2018 is crowned in Grimsby as celebrity and Michelin-starred judges arrive in town
The UK Young Seafood Chef of the Year competition held at the Grimsby Institute. Judges for the day, from left, Galton Blackiston, Nikki Hawkins, Serge Nollent, Franck Pontais and George McIvor
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 19 Jun 2018
The World Cup of seafood was held at Grimsby Institute as talented chefs battle it out for the coveted Young Seafood Chef of 2018.
La creme-de-la-creme of the seafood industry gathered to celebrate the supreme talents of young students from nine different colleges nationwide who came to the home of fish to show off their skills.
They were judged by a panel of top chefs which included Michelin-starred chef Galton Blackiston, of Morston Hall in Morston, Norfolk, George McIvor, Chairman of the Master Chefs of Great Britain, Nikki Hawkins, Events Manager at Seafish, Serge Nollent, Product Group Development Manager at Young’s and Franck Pontais, Private Chef and Food Consultant.
He told how last year’s winners are now working in a two-star Michelin restaurant at Gleneagles.
A charity auction was held to raise money in memory of London marathon runner Matt Campbell, 29, who died on the sweltering hot day.
He was a former winner of the Grimsby competition back in 2008 as a part of a team from Kendal College. He went on to be a finalist in MasterChef: The Professionals in 2017.
All proceeds will be going to the Brathay Trust which Matt generously supported and which helps build confidence among young people.
Curriculum manager for hospitality at Grimsby Institute, Paul Robinson said: “With Grimsby being at the heart of the seafood industry, it makes sense to have the national competition here.
“We have entries from London to Cumbria, from Scotland to Wales.”
He added: “It is a prestigious competition with prizes worth £6,000, including a trip to Holland and £2,600 for the college which wins the top award.”
He said he is grateful to Youngs Seafood for providing the fish and to Seafish Industry Authority for being the headline sponsor.
All the entrants gathered for a gala dinner at the Brackenborough Hall Hotel near Louth.
They were judged by some of the nation’s captains of the seafood catering industry.
Celebrity chef and judge Galton Blackiston
Galton said his favourite fish dish is wild sea bass.
“It is very simple. It is best let the fish speak for itself. I would probably have a classic champagne sauce with it,” he told.
He is top chef at Morston Hall, which is in the top 100 restaurants in Great Britain and has had Michelin star for 20 years.
Serge said his favourite fish dish is wild turbot, served with asparagus, corn puree and beurre blanc with chives.
Chairman of the Masterchefs of Great Britain, George McIvor said he likes wild sea trout with, fresh peas or broad beans, Jersey Royals and with a sprinkle of parsley or mint.
At work in the Grimsby Institute kitchen for the UK Young Seafood Chef of the Year competition
Nikki Hawkins said: “Grimsby fish is the best and people should eat more of it. the Government recommends at least twice a week. You see fish recommended in all the shows about dieting.”
She said her favourite fish dish is haddock with poached egg.
West College Scotland was handed the UK Young Seafood Chef title following the grand final at the Institute.
This year’s standard was declared “higher than ever” by judges, who struggled to separate the winner and runner-up, Kendal College.
Nine colleges competed in the final, which was sponsored by Seafish, Young’s Seafood, Robot Coupe, Russums, Oak Ridge Group, Koppert Cress and the Big Prawn Company.
However West College Scotland’s Sagar Massey, 19 and Jamie Cracknell, 21 impressed with their innovative cookery, preparing dishes such as cooked pickled herring and roast monkfish.
The pair took home approximately £6,000 of prizes, including a culinary trip sponsored by Koppert Cress, a Robot Cook Professional Heating Food Processor by Robot-Coupe, a £1,000 Russums voucher for their college, £500 each and a cookbook.
What the judges said
Nikki Hawkins, from Seafish, said: “The standard this year has been higher than ever.
“Instead of deliberating for the usual 15 or 20 minutes, judges took nearly an hour to decide on a winner. That’s how close it was.”
Speaking about the competition’s ongoing success, she added: “A lot of the competitors and lecturers have said to me this is like a family competition.
“We take them out on study tours and get to know them, and they get to know each other too. The atmosphere is very much ‘may the best man win’ and not ‘I’m better than you’.
“It’s a very friendly competition and the prizes are among the best in the country, so we’re very grateful for the support of our sponsors.”
Preparations are made in the kitchen at the Grimsby Institute
Fellow judge George McIvor said: “I think it’s brilliant for youngsters to have the opportunities and bravery to enter competitions like this. It can only be of great experience for them, it didn’t really happen in my day.
“It’s important to use sustainable fish and the innovation that young ones can bring to using the fish. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s produced here today.”
Galton Blackiston, a celebrity chef who has a Michelin star to his name, said the competition was one of the “tightest” he had ever judged.
“I have judged quite a few competitions in my time and none have been as tight as that. It came down to ridiculously finite details.
“For me, the standard was so high, and I was very relieved at the end when the decision was made because I really couldn’t split them.”
He added: “Last year from the competition I took two young people from Llandeilo and they now work in the five star Gleneagles hotel in Scotland.
“That came from an opportunity of speaking to me at the competition and it has transformed their lives, they are now working in a two Michelin star restaurant.
“Seafood is part of my life and I love getting my hands dirty and sharing my knowledge.”
UK Young Seafood Chef winners Sagar Massey and Jamie Cracknell (centre), of West College Scotland, with, left to right, Grimsby Institute tutor Chris Wood, Curriculum Manager Paul Robinson, judges Serge Nollent, Franck Pontais, George McIvor, Galton Blackiston and Nikki Hawkins and Institute tutor Garret Busby.
Competition winners Jamie and Sagar said they were “overwhelmed” by the result.
“We weren’t expecting it at all. We’ve had a really good insight from lecturers over the year, who have really helped us onto the right path.”
And it was third time lucky for Sagar, who added: “I was third two years ago and got a merit last year, so it’s an awesome feeling to finally win.”