The prestigious prize from the Roux family – which is open to professional chefs aged 22-30 ‒ was presented last night (Monday 10 April) by cousins Michel Roux Jr and Alain Roux, at the awards ceremony at The Langham London hotel.
Last year’s winner was Harry Guy, who went on to train with Joshua Skenes at Saison in San Francisco.
Selby – who won the Young National Chef of the Year competition in 2014 ‒ beat five other finalists in this year’s contest.
They were Oliver Downey of Fera at Claridge’s; Michael Cruickshank of Bohemia in St Helier, Jersey; Martin Carabott of Luca restaurant; Scott Dineen of BaxterStorey; and Matthew Whitfield of the Driftwood hotel in Portscatho, Cornwall.
This year’s judges included Brian Turner OBE; Sat Bains (Roux Scholar 1999); Simon Hulstone, chef proprietor at The Elephant in Torquay (2003); Andrew Fairlie (first ever Roux Scholar in 1984) chef patron at Gleneagles; chef and restaurateur James Martin; André Garrett of Cliveden country house hotel (2002); and David Nicholls, F&B director at the Mandarin Oriental hotel group.
This year’s honorary president of the judges was Anne-Sophie Pic, who opened her first London restaurant, La Dame du Pic, in January, and is the only female chef in France to hold three Michelin stars for her Maison Pic restaurant in Valence, France. She was named the World’s Best Female Chef in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2011.
The finalists were tasked with cooking a traditional French dish of stuffed saddle of hare, with chestnut tagliatelle and purple-sprouting broccoli. The task called for strong butchery skills and knowledge of French techniques.
This year was the first time that senior Roux family members, brothers Michel Roux (Snr) and Albert Roux, did not take part, having formally handed the responsibility over to their sons last year.
(From R-L: Michel Jr, Albert, Michel Sr, Alain Roux)
Selby – whose career includes roles at Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay ‒ wins prizes including a stage of up to three months at any three-Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, and £6,000 prize money.
“His dish was just better that everyone else’s,” co-judge Simon Hulstone told BigHospitality at the event. “Technically, it was the best. He was the last to serve his dish, and it really stood out.”
“He nailed it,” said judge Sat Bains. “It was such a good dish. The mise-en-place, the techniques, everything. The whole package. He just nailed it.”
Selby himself appeared almost speechless upon accepting his cheque and award, and simply said, "Thank you...thank you. I'm gobsmacked".
(Photo: Anne-Sophie Pic)
More female chefs
Honorary president of the judges Pic said it was an honour to be involved, especially since her family – she is third generation chef and restaurateur ‒ have had a long friendship with the Roux family.
However, she added that she would like to encourage – and hoped to see – more female chefs entering the competition next year.
In March, Alain Roux admitted that he was “disappointed” in the lack of female chefs in the competition.
In a tweet, he said: “Very few chefs seem to apply for the Roux Scholarship. Until they do, it will be an all-male domain. Very disappointed.”
Just one woman has ever won the contest: Mercy Fenton, in 1994; while Sabrina Gidda, currently head chef at Bernardi’s in Marylebone, was the only woman out of 120 chefs to take part in the 2016 contest.
Previous winners in recent years also include Tom Barnes (2014), Mark Birchall (2011), Hrishikesh Desai (2009), Frederick Forster (2000), and Steve Love (1997).