A chef from Iochdar, South Uist has been named as the Young Highland Chef of 2015. Twenty-five year old David MacDonald beat off competition from nine other finalists to win the title at a cook-off, held at Burghfield House in Dornoch.
David was selected as the winner of the title by a panel of expert judges led by internationally renowned chef Albert Roux OBE KFO. The other chefs on the panel were Andrew Fairlie of Gleneagles Hotel; Brian Maule of Chardon d’Or in Glasgow; Steven Docherty of The First Floor Café in Windermere; Glen Watson of The Belfry in Sutton Coldfield and Derek Johnstone from The Golf Inn in Gullane, East Lothian.
David wins a week’s work experience at the Roux family’s two Michelin starred restaurant, Le Gavroche, in London, £500 and a trophy.
The Young Highland Chef competition, now in its sixth year, is organised by North Highland College UHI’s Burghfield House training restaurant and the Albert Roux Consultancy.
Entrants aged between 18 and 30 were invited to submit a three-course dinner menu for two with crab in the starter, venison in the main and apple in the sweet, with a budget of £20 per cover. Ten applicants who were judged to have come up with the best menus on paper went on to cook their dishes at the final.
David, who is a sous chef at the New Drumossie Hotel in Inverness, produced the winning meal. He prepared crab and pearl barley risotto, roast crab claw, smoked eel and parsley mascarpone for the starter; loin of venison, boulangerie potato, caramelised onion puree, confit shallots, charred leeks, burnt onion and juniper jus for the main and vanilla custard, apple compote, toffee apple, cinnamon, shortbread and coffee for the sweet.
Michael Golledge (23) from Grandview House in Grantown on Spey came second in the competition, winning £250 and a week’s work experience at The RAC Club in London. Thomas Wright (23) from the Coul House Hotel in Contin took the third spot, receiving £100.
Speaking about his win, David said: “Having come second in the previous year’s competition, I was determined to win this year. I wasn't so nervous for this year’s competition as I have learnt so much in the last year and felt more comfortable with this year’s brief. As soon as the brief was out I knew straight away what my menu would look like. I am excited to have won the opportunity of a week’s work experience at Le Gavroche. Just to be able to see how a kitchen of that standard operates will be amazing.”
Albert Roux said: “Young Highland Chef 2015 has, without doubt, seen unprecedented success. Entries were at a record level and choosing the finalists from the written entries was particularly difficult as the standard was extremely high. Thought had gone into the dishes, with flavours and presentation of the highest order.
"The generosity of the sponsors and Burghfield House, the hosting venue, made this a competition young cooks will continue to aspire to. Well done to all who participated, particularly the winner David MacDonald, who will now spend one week training at Le Gavroche.”
Anne Frew, assistant director of service industries at North Highland College UHI, said: “Hosting the Young Highland Chef of the Year competition is the highlight of the year for our staff and students at the North Highland College UHI Burghfield House campus.
"It is such an inspirational experience for the young chefs and hospitality managers of the future to have the opportunity to meet and provide hospitality for six of Britain’s most accomplished chefs. The competition itself is going from strength to strength and it was lovely to be able to welcome this year’s ten finalists to the Burghfield for the competition cook-off.”
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, later tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating David MacDonald. David Stewart said “This is a great achievement for David. This competition showcases the talent we have here in the Highlands and Islands and I would congratulate David, and the other nine finalists, together with North Highland College UHI and the Albert Roux Consultancy who organised the competition for the sixth year. I wish David, and all the finalists, all the very best in their future careers."
Other finalists in the Young Highland Chef competition were Sean Beaton of the Eilean Dubh Restaurant in Fortrose; Claire McMurray, a student at West Highland College UHI; Darren Ross of the Roxburgh Hotel and Golf Course in Kelso; Jordan Clark of the Loch Melfort Hotel near Oban; Curtis Cross of Links House in Dornoch; Ross Payne from West Loch Hotel in Tarbert and Ruari McCartney from the Ulbster Arms Hotel in Halkirk. Each contestant was presented with a signed certificate and a Robot Coupe Micromix Blender.
Burghfield House is run as a training restaurant by North Highland College UHI, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands. The University of the Highlands and Islands and North Highland College UHI offer a range of tourism and hospitality courses, including a professional cookery HNC and a tourism and hospitality BA (Hons).
David MacDonald in the live cook-off
Left to right: Steven Doherty, Albert Roux and Andrew Fairlie tasting David’s winning menu
The Young Highland Chef 2015 judges and winner. Left to right: Derek Johnstone, Steven Doherty, Brian Maule, Andrew Fairlie, David MacDonald, Albert Roux, Glen Watson
Photos taken by Mark Rodgers (MKR Photographic)