Aldo Zilli has finally appointed a new pasta chef after a laborious Chef Factor competition outside his new restaurant in Brighton, and just weeks before the grand opening.
Lewis Birch, 18, a recent food prep and cooking graduate from Brighton City College, beat off competition with a lemon, chilli and courgette pasta dish, to win a place in the new Zilli Brighton kitchen, an Alfa Romeo to drive for the week, and a possible chance to attend the Zilli Cookery School in Abruzzo, Italy.
“He’s young, he wants to learn and he pressed all the right buttons with us today,” Zilli told BigHospitality. “We got a trainee chef out of it, which is better than none, but we haven’t got a sous chef out of it so we will turn him into one before we open.”
Judged and overseen by Zilli and myhotel Brighton CEO Andy Thrasyvoulou, the contestants were all given the same ingredients and time limit with which to make a pasta dish of their choice, although it seems not all were up to the task.
“I think the concept overall was brilliant, because it was my concept, but the contestants nevertheless were fairly poor. Maybe I was expecting a little bit better,
“I have very high standards in my kitchen, but nevertheless they came, they cooked, and they were crazy enough to go up there. It’s a nerve wracking situation and if they can work under pressure like that that’s why I chose Lewis, he’s that young and he stood the pressure.”
Although having only finished training recently, and predominantly as a pastry chef, Lewis did not seem nervous about his new job. “I’m just going to learn really - I’m just really pleased. I watch Aldo on Saturday Kitchen and I love his cooking. I love Italian food in general.”
Leroy Clarke, Chef Lecturer at Brighton City College, said: “ I realised the potential from the word go there was something about Lewis. He’s a natural and can turn his hand to anything.”
Zilli Brighton will open in Jubilee Square, in conjunction with myhotels, on 21 June.