The prestigious Roux Scholarship is to finally go ahead this autumn having been delayed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic.
And the stage for the penultimate culinary battle will be at University College Birmingham, a longstanding supporter of the competition.
For nearly a decade, the University’s industry gold standard kitchens have played host to one of the two regional cook-offs in the nationwide search for a culinary star founded by the Roux brothers, Albert and Michel OBE, in 1984. This all came to a standstill with lockdown in 2020.
However, with the heat firmly back on, the competition is back at the University’s Birmingham College of Food, and on September 9, nine semi-finalists will go head-to-head to impress a distinguished set of industry judges.
Down south at University of West London, another nine talented chefs will also be showing off their classical cooking and presentation skills in a bid to win a place at the national final on October 25.
This year, the first reserve selected at the paper judging stage in March 2020 will also get to compete in the cook-offs for the chance to win the crown.
The prize is £6,000 to support the winner’s career development and an invitation to cook and train under the supervision of a leading chef at a three-star Michelin restaurant anywhere in the world for up to three months.
Björn Frantzén from three-star Michelin restaurant Frantzén in Stockholm will lead the panel of judges, who comprise Alain Roux, MichelRoux Jr, Brian Turner CBE, Sat Bains, André Garrett, Simon Hulstone, Angela Hartnett MBE, James Martin, Rachel Humphrey and Clare Smyth MBE.
Hearing the competition was back on course felt amazing, said University College Birmingham senior lecturer Anthony Wright, the only chef lecturer to have been awarded the MCA (Master of Culinary Arts), the highest honour in the catering industry.
“What’s lovely about the Roux Scholarship is that, in my opinion, the Roux brothers have done more than anyone for the industry, especially the high end of the industry, and have trained legions of excellent chefs,” he said.
“University College Birmingham has had a longstanding relationship with the Roux family for over 20 years – I remember Albert Roux always used to order a whole, grilled dover sole when he visited us – and it’s wonderful to pay them homage through this competition. And may it continue for years to come.”
The scholarship, which was won in 2012 by former University College Birmingham graduate Adam Smith – now executive chef at Michelin-starred Coworth Park – is open to ambitious chefs working full-time in any establishment from a village pub to a fine dining restaurant.
What is essential is that they have mastered key skills including filleting fish, boning meat and making sweet and savoury souffles. They should also be capable of cooking under pressure and have ‘exquisite presentation skills’.
Chairman Alain Roux said: “At last, we can look forward to choosing our 2020 scholar, I can hardly wait! There was never any plan to cancel and give up on the talent we discovered in our regional finalists. This year, more than ever, our 2020 scholar will represent the tenacity, resilience, stamina and forbearance that defines us as chefs.”
Co-chairman Michel Roux Jr said: “I am so excited to put dates in the diary for the Roux Scholarship, especially after such a dreadful past 12 months. It feels as if there is unfinished business to be taken care of and I can’t wait to get our regional finals underway.
“As the saying goes ‘the show must go on’ and as chefs, we are ready to go!”
Discover our full range of food and hospitality courses at the Birmingham College of Food here.
The original version of this article was first published in The Midlands Business Network
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