Larry Jayasekara on winning National Chef of the Year 2016

By Emma Eversham contact

- Last updated on GMT

Larry Jayasekara, senior sous chef at Petrus and winner of the National Chef of the Year 2016 title
Larry Jayasekara, senior sous chef at Petrus and winner of the National Chef of the Year 2016 title

Related tags: Gordon ramsay group, Chef, Larry Jayasekara

Larry Jayasekara, senior sous chef at Gordon Ramsay Group's Petrus restaurant, talks about what it was like competing in and winning the National Chef of the Year 2016.

This was your third time in the final, what do you think helped you clinch the title this time? 

When you get to the final the first time, you think you know what it will be like, but it's a totally different ball game when you get there. You have to work with equipment you're not familiar with and you're cooking in a very small space. It can be a struggle to get the food out in two hours.

Having done it two times before I knew what to take with me and what to expect and had a better understanding of what the judges are looking for. Previously I'd done one stand-out dish, but that wasn't enough. The judges look for three consistent dishes not just one, so this year my plan was to get out three consistently good plates of food and fortunately I managed to do that. 

Why did you persevere? 

It's like a drug. When you get to this level and want something you never give up. I wasn't sure whether I would enter again, but when I saw the entry form I thought I'd give it a go, one last time.

National Chef of the Year is such a prestigious competition and title and winning that is an amazing achievement. One of my goals has been to win it because 14 years ago when I came here (from Sri Lanka) I'd walk past the chefs competing and thought 'I'm not going to be good enough, I'll never be at that level, but fortunately 14 years later I managed to get there.

What have you taken from the experience?

It's not just about winning, it's also about cooking for the judges, it's an honour. They are some of the best chefs in the world and getting their opinions on how to make me a better cook, that's the most enjoyable part for me.  

I spoke to Daniel Clifford who was one of the judges and he said 'you cooked really well Larry, your main course was stunning' and that was enough for me. It was great that he appreciated eating my food. The winning was the icing on the cake.

How much support did you have for the competition?

I had great support from the team at Gordon Ramsay Group. I came back to work at Petrus four and a half months ago and everyone has been behind me. Neil Snowball the restaurant's head chef mentored me throughout the three dishes to make sure I went in to the competition to at least get a place in the top three.

Without the team here and my family I wouldn't have been able to have done it. I have a little boy who is four years old and winning this has meant I can give something back to him after spending all those hours preparing. 

Now the competition is behind you what does the future hold? 

I'm taking things day by day. There are lots of things that have come out of the competition. I'm going to cook at a dinner in Portugal and an invite has just come through for another dinner. 

The plan is to stay with Gordon Ramsay Group and develop myself. I've been a head chef before and was running the kitchen for two and a half years for Marcus Wareing when he was at Petrus. I've been sous chef at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons and at The Waterside Inn, so for me the next step is becoming a head chef role or getting my own place.

I'd really like to stay with the Gordon Ramsay Group and develop myself, because it's a great place to work. Here they focus on quality, not quantity. It's one of the best companies to work at.  

My ultimate goal is to get a Michelin star, either at Gordon Ramsay Group or with my own place. Ideally I'd like a restaurant of 60 covers, with a small team of chefs that serves delicious, seasonal food. I trained classically and all I want is to cook food to the best of my ability and create a happy place to work. I really want to achieve that, hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. 

Related topics: People, Restaurant, Profiles, Chef

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