June is always a busy month for the Oak Ridge Group; not only is wedding season well and truly in full swing at both of their hotels, but also the Young Seafood Chef of the Year competition which Oak Ridge are a main and founding sponsor of, comes to town. The competition is open to teams from around the UK, who are judged in regional heats for their specially created seafood menus, culminating in the final, held at Grimsby Institute’s University Centre on June 13.
In a longstanding arrangement as one of the founding sponsors, the Brackenborough Hotel in Louth hosted the gala dinner for the finalists and judges on the eve of the final, as well as providing accommodation for the judges. Our selection of dishes served at the dinner were well received on the night!
Oak Ridge Group MD, Ashley Lidgard says: “I am always keen to forge links with the local community; the Grimsby Institute is a fantastic training ground for new talent, and ultimately creates the area’s future chefs, so we are keen to support them. I also trained in the Institute kitchens too, many years ago, so there is more than a little history involved.”
And the Oak Ridge Group’s links with seafood don’t end there. Fish features prominently on the menus at both properties; all is fresh, and locally sourced and supplied. The Brackenborough is renowned in the area for its “Brackie Whale & Chips”, so large that it barely fits on the plate!
The company have had fish supplied by Freemans Fish Merchants in Grimsby since Ashley’s parents first bought the Brackenborough Hotel 27 years ago, and that relationship continued when Ashley bought the business in 2005. Pete Freeman supplies both the Brackenborough and the Ashbourne with its fresh haddock, plaice and skate etc, tempting customers from far and wide.
Using locally sourced, seasonal produce is one of the many stipulations that have earned the Brackenborough its coveted AA Rosette star for food since 2008.
“Why mess with a winning formula?” Ashley said “Freemans haddock has been consistently excellent in all the 27+ years we’ve been serving it. It’s just another fine example of putting faith in local suppliers, and those relationships paying dividends. The amount of local repeat business we have week in, week out – just for that particular dish alone, proves that the customer really can taste the difference.” In fact, Michelin Star chef Nathan Outlaw, one of the competition’s judges this year, opted to sample our fish & chips at the gala dinner, and gave it the thumbs up…which was a relief!
And this year’s finalists did not disappoint the lucky members of our team who attended the lunch at Grimsby Institute; another inventive range of dishes were served – and bearing in mind these students are only given their list of ingredients the night prior – their menus were really professional and full of innovation. The top prize went to Kendal College this year, so we look forward to following the progress of their winning chefs’ careers. Our very own head chef at the Ashbourne Hotel even trained there, too!
Ashley Lidgard – one of the founding members of the competition way back in 1996 – has the final word: “Seeing the upcoming chefs and their modern take on seafood based cuisine, we are always impressed and inspired to see what they come up with for the final. We’ve never had a bad dish in the years we’ve been attending to be honest, so at risk of sounding cliché – they’re all winners in our eyes!”