Back in June, the Ashbourne’s Chef de Partie Connor Berney participated in the HEYHA (Hull & East Yorkshire Hospitality Association) Copper Saucepan ‘Apprentice Chef of the Year’ competition, now in its 10th year.
The widely-respected competition for young chefs, is to showcase rising talent in the local area. Entrants must have been in the industry for no longer than four years, and must devise their own menu, reflecting their individual talents, whilst also using local, fresh ingredients.
Incredibly, Connor was selected as one of the two finalists, who then had to devise, prepare and cook a two course meal in 30 minutes, in front of an audience on the main stage of the Beverley Food Festival on Sunday 2nd October. Connor was competing against Vicky Martin from the Holiday Inn Hull Marina.
The judges were Paul Vinsen (Chair HEYHA), Ryan Cooke (Head Chef Winteringham Fields), Ian Snedden (Curriculum Leader Hull College), Phil Dixon (Chef Lecturer Hull College), Helen Watson (Beverley Town Clerk), and Roy Woodcock (local food writer).
Connor’s dishes were:
Pan Fried Seabass with Kale, fresh Radish, Leek & Prawn Risotto, White Wine Sauce
Any nerves he felt had to be kept well and truly under wraps as he cooked in front of the large crowd. Connor said “Although I’d put a lot of time and effort into devising the menu, I’d been on holiday in Australia for 2 weeks prior to the final, so I’d only had the chance to do one full practice run beforehand, so the pressure was well and truly on!”
The contest was tight, and Connor really couldn’t predict which way it would go, but had a glimmer of hope at the end of the 30 minutes, when his rival went 5 minutes over the allotted time: “We were allowed to go over, but they penalise you for each minute over the 30 minutes, and I only went over by 1 minute. That was the first point that I thought I might have a fighting chance.”
In a repeat of the first round of the contest, Connor was the victor. This time he was crowned champion – Apprentice Chef of the Year 2016. As well as scooping the coveted Copper Saucepan trophy and cash prize of £300, Connor also has a day in the kitchen of the award winning Winteringham Field Restaurant with Head Chef Colin McGurren, which he is very excited about!
And the final word, to our very own champion, Connor Berney:
“I have to first of all thank Ashbourne Hotel Director Andrew Smith, who encouraged me to enter in the first place – not sure I would’ve done it if I wasn’t pushed! Also my Head Chef, John Greenley, who has been a brilliant mentor to me, and always inspires me to try new things and step out of my comfort zone. What a great year 2016 has been – here’s to the future!”
We couldn’t be more proud of you Connor – you deserve the success!