Why did you enter the awards?
I entered, partly on a whim when I received the e-mail, but mainly to see what people outside of the café thought of the food, and specifically breakfast, we have on offer. As a self-taught cook who changed career and turned passion into business 11 years ago, I thought it would be interesting to put forward a dish of my creation to see what professionals thought.
Tell us about your winning dish. How did you come up with it?
Hollandaise sauce is obviously associated by most people with eggs benedict and ‘refined’ breakfasts of a similar style. I felt that it would be interesting and in-keeping with the café to do something that was both unusual and with a touch of simple ‘home cooking’.
Eggy bread is a taste of our childhood that we all love, and importantly to me would fit on the café menu. It was essential that my dish was in-keeping with the cafe’s style and gave a true representation of what our customers like. Chorizo was an easy choice for flavour and appearance. I then needed something that contrasted in terms of flavour, colour and texture. Pan fried kale ticked all the boxes. Vibrant green, crispy and with its touch of iron.
Finally, I wanted to use the hollandaise in more than one way, and the dish was perfectly suited with it’s addition to the eggy batter and in the spicy hollandaise dressing, sharpened with lime.
How do you stay calm when competing under pressure?
When the command ‘cook’ was given, I just cooked! Competition, time and the environment were pretty much forgotten and I was doing what I do every day. Plus, I was helped by the fact that the café has an open kitchen and customers are watching me all the time.
Although this was my first cookery competition, as an ex-competitive cyclist and triathlete I am used to putting my game head on! I did think I would be more nervous – but in the end it was just fun.
Did you expect to win? What did you think of the standard?
I absolutely did not expect to win! All I wanted to do was cook the dishes as well as I could, not make any mistakes and travel home the next day knowing I had not let myself down. When I saw and tasted some of the dishes from the other chefs I was blown away and pretty much thought ‘Happy with my dishes, but no chance!’
Did you enjoy the event?
I had an absolute blast! I have never cooked in a professional kitchen before and have never worked alongside other chefs. I made new friends, learned an unbelievable amount, and for the first time felt part of the profession, rather than a lone wolf with a café!
How did it feel when your name was read out?
Amazed, gobsmacked and stunned. The rest of the night and week were a surreal blur. I am still slowly coming down…