Talented Conwy chef Sam Ricketts has clinched his place in the Junior Chef of Wales final next month after winning the North Wales heat.
Sam, 20, who works a chef de partie at the award-winning Signatures Restaurant, Conwy, edged out six rivals by scoring 92 points out of 100 in the heat held at Coleg Llandrillo, Rhos-on-Sea.
He now goes through to the showpiece final at Coleg Llandrillo on February 16, on the eve of the Welsh International Culinary Championships. Apart from claiming the coveted title of Junior Chef of Wales and a dragon trophy, the winner will also secure an all-expenses paid trip to represent Wales at the Junior Forum held at the World Association of Chefs’ Societies Congress in Athens, Greece in May 2016.
“Sam was a deserved winner and will be tough to beat in the final,” said judges’ chairman Graham Tinsley, executive head chef at Carden Park Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa and a director of the Castle Hotel, Conwy. “His flavours and the food he put on the plate were very good.
“He stuck to the dishes he knows and does well at Signatures and that’s what chefs should do in a competition. It often doesn’t pay to go outside your comfort zone in a competition.
“For many of the chefs, it was there first time in a competition and they will learn from the experience.”
Sam said: “I was flabbergasted when they called my name out as the winner. To win the heat and be named North Wales Junior Chef of the Year is just amazing and a great achievement. I am really excited about the final and can’t wait.”
In preparation for the heat, he had one full run through of the menu and practiced each dish once more.
He revealed that his chef uncle inspired him to follow in his footsteps after watching him cook Christmas dinner when he was 11. He hopes to one day own his own restaurant and achieve a Michelin star.
His winning menu was: Starter: Pan-fried Anglesey sea bass with local lobster and scallop ravioli, spaghetti vegetables and a shellfish cream. Main course: Trio of Welsh Lamb – roasted rack, braised tongue, moussaka – garlic pomme purée, courgette pattie, red pepper fondue and a red wine jus. Dessert: Apple and cinnamon crumble with clotted cream ice cream, cinnamon tuille, apple crisp and apple jelly.
Also competing in the North Wales heat were: Arron Tye from Shared Olive, Hawarden, Mathew Morris from Bar Uno, Bangor University, Joshua Hughes from Quay Hotel, Deganwy, James Roberts from Ty Gwyn Hotel, Betws y Coed, Ryan Philipps from Castle Hotel, Conwy and Muhamad Aizat Mohd Radzuan from Orchid Pan Asian Restaurant, Aberystwyth.
They must wait until after the South Wales heat at Coleg y Cymoedd, Nantgarw tomorrow (Wednesday) to discover who qualify for the final. The heat winners will be joined by the two highest scoring runners up.
Organised every two years by the Culinary Association of Wales, the Junior Chef of Wales contest is sponsored by the Welsh Government to promote the Food and Drink Wales brand.
The chefs were given three hours to cook their own creative menu for a three course dinner for four persons, using a selection of Welsh products.
The South Wales heat contestants are: Benjamin Cooke from Brains, Cardiff, Andrew Tabberner from Coast Restaurant, Saundersfoot, Ian McCormack and Wensley Macauly both from Coleg y Cymoedd and Vivienne Read from Celtic Manor Resort, Newport.
Culinary Association Wales president Colin Gray, owner of Capital Cuisine, said the competition could be a stepping stone to joining the junior Culinary Team Wales in the future.
“The Junior Chef of Wales contest provides the perfect platform for young chefs to demonstrate their skills and catch the eye of national team selectors,” he added. “Previous winners have gone on to compete for Wales at all the major culinary competitions around the world.”
Sam Ricketts with the North Wales Junior Chef of the Year trophy and his winning dishes.
Junior Chef of Wales North Wales heat winner Sam Ricketts with chairman of judges Graham Tinsley and Culinary Team Wales captain Sally Owens.