The UK and Ireland Young Chef Final – Adam Handling’s The Frog:
It’s rare for me to be with the same chef for two evenings in one week, but Adam Handling, this year’s runner-up in Young Chef 2016 held on 21st June, just happened to be launching his new restaurant later that week. I’ve been following Adam since he took charge at Caxton Grill, St Ermin’s Hotel, a star in the making at the age of 27 he’s already won a host of awards including Scottish Chef of the year for 2015.
It turned out that although the S. Pellegrino regional final was for the UK and Ireland, chefs taking part could be from anywhere in the world – they just needed to be working in the relevant region at the time of entry. The result, an extremely competitive regional final, with a lot of young international chefs currently working in the UK and Ireland. A fabulous event, we were stunned by the dazzling array of dishes cooked and presented to the four chef judges. I’m not sure I’d want to boil an egg in front of luminaries like Claude Bosi, Ollie Dabbous, Ross Lewis and JP McMahon, let alone produce the kind of signature dishes we saw and tasted on the evening of 21st June.
It was truly an event of young stars – all under 30. The finalists comprised:
- Łukasz Wącirz, Chef de Partie at Llangoed Hall in Wales with his dish: “Polish Lynx in the forest with a ‘Pigeon’ in the leaves and Goose with ‘Saber’”
- Alfonso Giugliano, Sous Chef at Cornstone Restaurant in Cork with his dish: “After the Storm”
- Francesco Simone Sodano, Sous Chef at Annabel’s club in London with his dish: “Octopus and Celery Salad”
- Cornelia Suehr, Premier Sous Chef The Grill at The Dorchester with her dish: “Home cured, cold smoked Rainbow Trout with beetroot, horse radish, Granny Smith and white bread”
- Adam Handling, Head Chef at Adam Handling at Caxton Grill in London with his dish: “Burnt Beef”
- Ian Musgrave, Sous Chef at The Ritz Hotel in London with his dish: “Gloucester Old Spot Pork, Langoustines, Hispi Cabbage and Apple”
- Gareth Ruck, Chef at Hogan Lovells Fine Dining in London with his dish: “Salt Marsh Lamb”
- Romuald Bukaty, Chef de Partie at Avenue by Nick Munier in Dublin with his dish: “Symphony of the Sea”
- Brandon Clemens, Chef de Partie at Kaspar’s at The Savoy in London with his dish: “Pigeon, Honey, Truffle, Carrot”
- George Kataras, Sous Chef at M restaurants in London with his dish: “Whole Turbot”
We didn’t get to eat the picture-perfect plates put in front of the judges. It was up to them to sniff and sup their way through full portions.
Instead, we were given tasters, prepared in the Waitrose Cookery School kitchens by their own staff. Probably a good idea, I don’t think I could have managed ten full portions of deliciousness and it would have been a travesty to leave anything. The Chef Judges must all have hollow legs!
As such, though, it’s impossible for us to know exactly what made one dish stand out over another.
But we did get to photograph the chefs in action – I’m not sure that 40 or so media with cameras in the kitchen can have been helpful – but I guess if you can’t stand the heat you need to stay out of this type of competition.
My own personal favourites included both the winner, George Kataras’s dish of whole turbot (so named because every part of the turbot was used, rather than because the fish was served whole) and Adam’s burnt beef. I also loved the pigeon dish presented by Brandon Clemens, Chef de Parti at Kaspars at the Savoy. Actually, if I’m honest, there wasn’t a single dish I disliked, though I think one or two were a little over complicated.
George, from M Restaurants, London, now spends the next few months being mentored by Claude Bosi before going to Milan to take part in the world finals, October 2016.
Later that week I got to try more of Adam’s food in the form of canapes and bowl food at the launch of The Frog. My companion for the evening arrived first and messaged me sounding slightly concerned. Tucked away just off Brick Lane, The Frog is a far cry from the refined surroundings of The Caxton Grill.
The launch party, complete with craft beer, Adam’s own house gin made into cocktails and that ultra hip drink of the moment Kombucha was getting started.
Arriving, I wasn’t entirely sure how long we’d be able to stay, how hip you needed to be to join in the party.
But, once the food started to be handed out, we quickly revised our plans of heading off for dinner somewhere quieter and more grown-up. Who cares if neither of us made hipster grade, with food that good we were not going anywhere.
Everything we tasted was excellent and, despite our resolution to only try things once, some dishes just needed a second helping. We stayed. I drank more cocktails while my companion tried a Kombucha. And, we staggered home, full of good food and mellowed by the convivial surroundings.
I’m impressed with all the young chefs who took part in the UK and Ireland final of the S. Pellegrino Young Chef. I’ll be watching to see how the World Final progresses. And, I’m particularly impressed with Adam Handling, who at the age of 27 has won a fistful of awards, led a successful top class Hotel restaurant, developed his own lines of olive oil and gin and now, opened his own unique restaurant.
Follow the S. Pellegrino Young Chef news if, like me, you are fascinated to find out who will be crowned the Young Chef for 2016
And, if you want to try The Frog for yourself, hop over to 2 Ely’s Yard, Old Truman Brewery, Hanbury Street E1 6QR
Call: +44 (0)20 3813 9832