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Welsh chef wins International Escoffier Challenge Grand Final

By Peter Ruddick , 13-Mar-2012

Related topics: Events & Awards, People, Restaurants

Dion Jones from Carden Park Country Hotel near Chester has won the junior section of the International Escoffier Challenge Grand Final after becoming only the first Welsh chef to represent Great Britain in the competition.

Dion Jones, senior chef de partie at Carden Park Country Hotel near Chester, won the junior version of the International Escoffier Challenge Grand Final for Great Britain in France

Dion Jones, senior chef de partie at Carden Park Country Hotel near Chester, won the junior version of the International Escoffier Challenge Grand Final for Great Britain in France

Jones, senior chef de partie at Carden Park and a member of the Welsh National Culinary Team, won the prize after serving a series of lamb dishes in the final in Avignon, South East France, where he competed against other chefs from across Europe.

Great Britain had a strong night at the competition, organised by the Association Culinaire Française, as Dominic Goltinger from Bistrot Bruno Loubet came second in the senior version of the challenge.

Language barrier

Speaking to BigHospitality the morning after his success, Jones said the competition had been tough.

"It was emotional. It was a really hard day with the language barrier and being in a different kitchen; I just worked through it and came through in the end. I wasn't confident because the Swiss platters were really stunning and they had spent a lot of money on it while I went with a few extras and just really decent food," he said.

Accompanied by his mentor Graham Tinsley, executive chef at Carden Park and manager of the Welsh National Culinary Team, 24-year-old Jones had flown to Paris before hiring a car to complete the 14-hour journey to compete in Avignon. The competition kicked off at half seven on Monday morning and was wrapped up by midday but Jones had to wait eight hours to find out if he had won.

Jones declared he was proud to be a Welsh chef in the competition but was just as proud to be representing the UK as a whole. Jones, whose ambition is to work in a Michelin-starred kitchen, said he was happy to carry on working at Carden Park for the moment but the next stage would be competing for Wales in the Culinary Olympics in Germany later this year.

Tinsley told BigHospitality the competition happened behind closed doors but he had got a chance to see some of the rival dishes which were visually very impressive. However Tinsley said Jones had strong kitchen skills, planning and a well-balanced menu choice would give him a good shot of coming in the top three.

Lamb

The competition is organised by the Association Culinaire Française, which promotes French culinary arts oversees, and the ingredients were all French. However Tinsley said working with lamb, an ingredient Welsh chefs know so well, was an advantage.

"The Welsh lamb isn't quite ready yet, we have got another couple of months but it is a product that we are used to using. We are in France and we had to use their products; French lamb is pretty good anyway but I suppose we have got to be a bit biased and say our lamb is better but it isn't quite ready," he said.

Jones' menu consisted of a compulsory dish of roasted shoulder of lamb provençale with stuffed artichokes cooked presented in classical style. He also cooked a pressed terrine of vegetables with a fennel biscuit and poached lamb fillet with lamb consommé.

The pair will now begin the return trip to the UK with no concrete plans on how to celebrate the success as Jones will be back in the kitchen on Wednesday.

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