Two young chefs from West College Scotland have been crowned national champions at the 2018 UK Young Seafood Chef of the Year competition, held at the Grimsby Institute (June 15).
The competition, headline sponsored by Seafish - the public body that supports the £6bn UK seafood industry - saw teams from across the UK battle through three regional heats to earn a place at the final.
Jamie Cracknell (21) and Sagar Massey (19), who are both studying for a HNC in professional cookery, battled it out against eight other teams to produce a three-course menu using only sustainably sourced seafood. On our YouTube channel you'll find highlights from the final and an interview with the winners. You can watch it here.
The winners menu of pickled herring with parsnip cream, radish and apple dashi; a new invention test dish using tiger prawns; and poached monkfish tail in an olive crumb with monkfish scampi impressed this year's judges. The final's judging panel included Serge Nollent, Head of Culinary from Youngs, chef and author Franck Pontais, Nikki Hawkins of Seafish, George McIvor from Master Chefs of Great Britain and Galton Blackiston, owner of Michelin-starred restaurant Morston Hall.
As well as taking home the respected UK Young Seafood Chef of the Year title and the competition trophy, Jamie and Sagar also received a Robot Cook Professional Heating Food Processor from Robot Coupe, £500 each and a £1,000 voucher for Russum's catering equipment for the West College Scotland, and a culinary trip to Holland.
The champions will also have their winning recipes featured on the website of Seafish's National Seafood Week, set to take place on the 5-12th October.
Jamie Cracknell commented: "The competition was really tough and I'm so proud we were able to deliver in the final. I'd like to say a huge thanks to my tutor, Chris Watson, and to my friends and family for supporting us."
Sagar Massey added: "This competition has really boosted my confidence in working with seafood. It's been great to get some tips and tricks from the judges and I'm looking forward to cooking with seafood more in my future recipes." (It was Sagar's 3rd year entering and so paid off this year).
Nikki Hawkins, events manager at Seafish said: "The standard of cooking throughout this year's competition has been fantastic, with every team pushing themselves to showcase their exceptional seafood skills. This has to be the strongest finals ever, with judges debating for a long time, The skill sets and the dishes presented were outstanding, and a credit to all the lecturers involved this year.
"The UK Young Seafood Chef of the Year competition is open to any chef under 25 who is enrolled at a catering college or working as a modern apprentice. It's highly respected across the industry, and I'd encourage anyone who is interested in challenging themselves to consider taking part in the years to come."
Galton Blackiston, owner of the Michelin-starred Morston Hall restaurant in Norfolk and one this years' guest judges said: "Every single student taking part did themselves and their lecturers proud. The overall standard was great, and I would personally give a job to all of the students who took part in the final. I wish each of them the very best for the future."
Paul Robinson, Curriculum Manager, Hospitality, The Grimsby Institute, said: "It's encouraging to see the next generation demonstrate such creativity and flair when working with seafood.
"As well as enabling the young chefs to gain recognition for their hard work and talent, the competition also challenges them to think about how they can work sustainable varieties of seafood into their menus.
"I look forward to seeing Jamie and Sagar take their next steps
in the hospitality industry."
Tributes were also paid to Matt Campbell, who died tragically at the London Marathon this year. He was the winner of the UK Young Seafood Chef of the Year in 2008 as a part of a team from Kendal College and went on to be a finalist in MasterChef: The Professionals in 2017. As a tribute to Matt, Seafish and the Grimsby Institute held a Charity Auction at the competition finals with all proceeds going to the Brathay Trust, which Matt generously supported. The auction raised £1600.
The UK Young Seafood Chef of the Year competition was founded in 1996 by tutors and industry specialists of The Grimsby Institute of Further & Higher Education's Hospitality Department.
Young's Seafood supplied the fish for this year's competition,
with new sponsor The Big Prawn Company, providing the prawns for
the invention test, intermediate course. Koppert Cress donated a
study trip to Holland for the winners and Oak Ridge Hotel
providing accommodation for competitors, lecturers and judges.