The only chef ever to win the senior and junior National Chef of Wales titles in consecutive years has thrown his hat back into the ring in a bid to regain one of the accolades in 2017.
Danny Burke, 39, co-owner of Olive Tree Catering, Hawarden, is one of seven finalists in the National Chef of Wales final, which will be split into two heats on February 23, the last day of the Welsh International Culinary Championships at Coleg Llandrillo, Rhos-on-Sea.
Burke has recently returned from the Culinary Olympics in Germany where he captained Culinary Team Wales to three bronze medals.
To add extra spice to the final, he will be up against Wales teammates Simon Crockford from the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport and Jason Hughes from Chateau Rhianfa, Menai Bridge.
The four other finalists are Matthew Smith from Nag’s Head, Garthmyl, near Montgomery, Thomas Westerland from Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa, near Bath who was beaten finalist this year, Matthew Ramsdale from Sebastians, Oswestry and Anthony Bush from Heronston Hotel, Bridgend.
The winner will secure an all expenses paid, one week culinary trip to the Netherlands courtesy of Koppertcress, which includes an ‘inspirational day’ with a cress coach, a set of knives courtesy of Dick Knives, £250 worth of products from Churchill China and Gourmet Classic shopping vouchers.
Burke said he was looking forward to the competition and had already started practicing. He explained that when he became National Chef of Wales, he didn’t enjoy the experience as much as he should have because he was only 23, inexperienced and felt burdened by the title.
“Now that I have my own business, I have a bit more time and experience to go and compete and, hopefully, win. It would be nice to be able to enjoy being crowned the best chef in Wales and not feel like a charlatan,” he added.
“As captain of the senior Culinary Team Wales, I realise I am there to be shot at. All the finalists will have a fair chance and the winner will be the one that puts the most time and effort into his dishes. I intend to put my heart and soul into preparing for the next three months to give myself the best possible chance. If I don’t win, I will know that I was not good enough and it won’t be due to a lack of preparation.”
The Junior Chef of Wales final, to be held on the first day of the Welsh International Culinary Championships on February 20, will be contested by four chefs. The finalists include Harry Paynter-Roberts from the Castle Hotel, Conwy and Steffan Davies from Gidleigh Park, Exeter, who were members of the junior Culinary Team Wales which excelled in winning two silver medals at the Culinary Olympics.
They will be competing against this year’s Junior Chef of Wales runner-up James Corbett from the Elephant and Castle Hotel, Newtown and Harry Osborne from Signatures, Llandudno.
Both competitions are organised by the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) and main sponsor is Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government’s department representing the food and drink industry.
Apart from the kudos of being named best in Wales, the winners of the junior final will automatically go through to the UK semi-finals of the Junior Chef of the Year contest and senior final winner will be encouraged to represent Wales in the UK National Chef of the Year contest.
CAW president Arwyn Watkins praised the quality of entries for both competitions. “We have decided to make Thursday the National Chef of Wales day at the Welsh International Culinary Championships,” he said.
“Due to the calibre of entries, we felt it would be an injustice not to have all seven chefs competing in the final, so we decided to split the final into two heats. It’s also great to see three members of the senior Culinary Team Wales and two members of the junior team stepping up as individuals to compete in the finals, which will showcase the culinary talent that the nation has.”