Bennett, now head chef at The Cross in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, had previously stated his hope of competing against the world’s best in Lyon in 2015 after finishing fourth in 2013, the highest ever by a Brit.
He went head to head with Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year Frederick Forster, from The Boundary, and Raj Holuss, from The Ritz, at a national selection competition at University College Birmingham on Monday.
Each chef had to prepare and cook three different garnishes to accompany a chicken ballotine, the food presented on traditional silver flats.
Bennett’s winning platter comprised a ballotine of French farmed chicken with wild mushroom and truffle mousseline with fricassee of leek and chicken leg, carrot with chicken, tarragon and mustard, potato and cȇpe croquette with pickled mushroom, savoy cabbage with bacon, chicken jus and sherry vinegar.
The first challenge for Bennett, former head chef at The Cross’s big sister, Simpsons in Birmingham, will be to prepare for the European selection competition in Sweden on May 7-8. Think of this as being like a World Cup qualifier in football. Chefs representing 20 European nations will take part in a two-day cook-off in Stockholm with 12 places in the final (always held in Lyon) up for grabs.
The successful 12 countries go forward to final in France in January 2015.
Bennett, 46, said: “I am looking forward to the challenge. It is nice to be in the Bocuse D’Or with the experience of having competed before.
“It is still scary but we know we can get through the process. My aim will be the same as last time – to enjoy each stage of the competition.”
All the chefs have to use the same key ingredients for the qualifier and must cook a meat dish and a fish dish. For the 2013 world final, Irish beef fillet was the centrepiece of the meat dish and Bennett, from Coventry, excelled, winning the prize for the best meat platter. The boy knows his beef.
Let’s hope he also knows his coalfish – and the cooking qualities of young Swedish pig – because these will be the main ingredients for Stockholm.
Coalfish, also known as coley and black pollock, will be the main component of the fish course, paired with Swedish seafood.
According to Britishseafishing.co.uk, coalfish are strong fighters and unforgiving feeders, attributes Bennett will empathise with. The choice of this workaday fish, often used in mass market products such as fish fingers, is an interesting choice by the Bocuse D’Or powers, hinting at moves to deflect claims of competition elitism.
Britishseafishing.co.uk says: “Like pollock, the coalfish is perfectly edible, but it does not have the same reputation as a table fish as premium whitefish such as cod or haddock and does not fetch the same price at fish auctions as these species.” It’s going to have to be one hell of a sauce.
Bennett and his fellow chefs will be given 1.2kg of coalfish loin, 38 Belon oysters and 1.5kg of blue mussels.
If the fish course represents one challenge – making a common foodstuff look like a haute cuisine wet dream – then the meat course presents another in terms of complexity.
Here’s the shopping list the Stockholm competitors have been given for the main piggy ingredient:
- Ham on the bone (6kg total for 4kg of meat including fat and rind) and 3 pig feet from Swedish young pigs.
- Additional products (the use of one is mandatory, the use of two is optional): blood from Swedish pig (1 litre in frozen pack), citrate added to prevent blood clots; and hog casing from Swedish pigs (about 10 metres salted Swedish hog casings, 33-36 mm in diameter).
Back in Birmingham, Brian Turner, president of the Bocuse D’Or Team UK, praised the high standard of cooking skills demonstrated by the three chefs in the UK selection, which was staged at University College Birmingham.
He said: “Adam once again demonstrated his talent for producing wonderful looking and tasting food and that, along with his experience at the Bocuse d’Or, makes him the strongest candidate for 2014.
“However, the Bocuse d’Or is the pinnacle of chef competitions so it’s essential that we continue to seek out candidates who have an interest in taking on the challenge, as well as the skills required. We hope that both Raj and Frederick will be taking part in the national selection for 2017.”
Bennett, from Coventry, will again use the specially-built Bocuse D’Or competition kitchen at University College Birmingham as he prepares for Stockholm. UCB is to be congratulated once again on its continued support for UK cooking on the international stage.
- Adam Bennett and Brian Turner are due to appear on the BBC’s “Saturday Kitchen” on January 11.