“Both Jake’s and Michael’s recipes were very well composed using the prime ingredients with respect and in a balanced fashion,” says Michel Roux Jr. “They featured classic garnishes such as artichoke barigoule and bouillabaisse but with modern flair and techniques. I, for one, can’t wait to taste them”.
A pair of talented young Edinburgh chefs - Jake Hassall, 28, head chef at Restaurant Martin Wishart and Michael Chwu, 26, senior chef de partie at The Kitchin, have made it through to the regional finals of The Roux Scholarship. This annual competition, which was established in 1983, is open to chefs under the age of 30, and there are 17 men and one woman in the UK who have made it through to this round.
As well as the two based in the capital, they include Jonathan Ferguson, junior sous at The Glenturret at Lalique, which was recently awarded a Michelin star.
Chwu will be entering the next stage of the competition in London on March 24, and Hassall will be heading to Birmingham. They’ll be cooking the dish they created to get them onto the shortlist, which had to contain Dover sole, brown shrimps and handmade pasta. They’ll also have to whip up a mystery dessert, and judges will include Alain Roux, Michel Roux Jr, Brian Turner, Clare Smyth and Sat Bains. Only six chefs will make it past these regional rounds, and go onto the national final on April 11. As well as a raft of other prizes, including hotel stays, fishing trips and hampers, the winner will receive £6000, and the opportunity to train and cook in any three-star Michelin restaurant in the world, following which they’ll receive another £6000.
“We’re getting judged by the premier chefs of the UK. It's one thing to recognise these guys on TV and to know their restaurants and try their menus but it's another thing to have them watch you cook and I presume it will be pretty intimidating,” says Chwu. “It means the world to me. It has I think it kind of cemented the idea that I went against the grain”.
Chwu originally studied mathematics in London, but had a change of heart and went into cooking instead. During lockdown, he temporarily returned to London to stay with his family, and they created a Taiwanese takeaway, with all profits donated to the NHS.
The dish he designed for the competition was based on a classic bouillabaisse, and there was pasta stuffed with brandade made from trimmings of Dover sole and “mashed tatties”. Also, since he’s from a Scottish restaurant, he also incorporated some smoked haddock. “I just hope I can get it up in two and a half hours”, says Chwu.
Hassall, who was also a finalist for the 2019 Andrew Fairlie Scholarship, has created another spectacular-sounding dish. He’ll be cooking a steamed fillet of sole, with artichoke bariguole, gardanelli pasta and a Vin Jaune sauce. As he says, “I’m excited and slightly nervous, because it’s such a big exciting competition in our industry”.