The heat was on for three local chefs who competed in a Cook Off this week for the Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards.
Tobias Reutt, of Earlsdon Supper Club, Colm Jones of The Green Dragon and Sam Barnett of The Loft, all in Coventry, had one hour to prepare a dish of their choice in their bid for the title of Fine Dining Chef of the Year.
These dishes were then judged, at The Farm in Snitterfield on Tuesday, by Michelin Star chef Paul Foster, of Salt in Stratford and Warwickshire food blogger and journalist Ellen Manning.
Paul Foster’s successful career has so far earned him a Michelin star, three AA rosettes, a place in the top 50 UK restaurants in The Good Food Guide and has been awarded Observer Food Monthly ‘Young Chef of the Year’ and The Good Food Guide ‘Best Up and Coming Chef’ award.
The winner will be among those revealed at the Foodie Awards ceremony at The Box at Coventry’s Fargo Village, on Thursday (June 16th). The second Awards, being run in partnership with Visit Coventry and Visit Warwickshire, focuses on quality, service and innovation with an emphasis on farm to fork, including best artisan food and drink producers, farm shop, independent food and drink retailer, newcomer, street food trader and chef or cook of the year.
New categories this year will also recognise Foodie Start-up, Fine Dining Restaurant and the International Taste Award. And the finalists in the Casual Dining Chef of the Year category will compete in front of a live crowd at this weekend’s Pub In The Park event in Warwick, judged by Former British Bake-off winner Candice Brown and food and drink broadcaster and champion Nigel Barden.
Paul Foster said: “I’m always looking for the same things when I judge a competition, first and foremost is execution and seasoning and then technique, but the most important thing is how it tastes. What have they done with the ingredients, are they seasonal, and the presentation.
“There’s been some really inteersting dishes today, a diverse mix of cuisines and standards. There’s been some really well executed techniques and there are some things that need some improvement but I think the point of this competition is not just winning it, it’s so the chefs will learn from this and can grow. It was tough to come to a decision. I didn’t know what to expect and I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
“It’s a really positive awards. It’s great for the area, great for the local food community to show how diverse it is, to celebrate and for people to network as well.”
Fellow judge Ellen Manning said: “It was a real privilege to be involved in the judging of the cook-off and to see some of our great chefs doing what they do best. The Foodie Awards is a great way for our wonderful local restaurants to show off what they do and the talented teams behind them, so to be there in person alongside one of our area’s most lauded chefs and restaurateurs was a real treat.
“As Paul said, competitions like this aren’t just about winning, but about raising the bar when it comes to the quality of the food scene in Coventry and Warwickshire, and I look forward to seeing all of the finalists go from strength to strength.”
Tobias Reutt is hoping he can take the title for the second year running with his duck breast recipe. He said: “I’ve practised this dish quite a few times. It embodies how far I’ve come as a chef. It’s a real privilege to be a finalist again. “It’s been a crazy year after winning last year and I would definitely encourage chefs to enter these awards.”
Colm Jones, who chose to cook a Rainbow Trout dish, said: “I was very surprised to be selected for the finals and it’s good to see it’s all Coventry boys. I’m up against some very good chefs.”
Sam Barnett, who has been heading up the kitchen at The Loft since it opened just a few months ago, said: “My boss entered me into the competition and didn’t tell me but I was very happy when I found out I made the finals. I’ve never done anything like this before but I’m all for challenging yourself. It’s exciting to be a part of it.
“It’s nice to be back here because I’ve been away for so long and hopefully we can get a good name for the city.”
The Foodie Awards will once again be raising money for The Trussell Trust network of eight food banks in Coventry and Warwickshire.
For the full list of finalists visit here