A MEARNS chef has scooped one of the region’s most prestigious culinary titles after being named Grampian Chef of the Year.
Alexandria Hay, who hails from Fettercairn, came out top in what one of the judges described as a “hotly contested” category to take the accolade, after her menu of Scottish langoustines, with squash, pear and spiced sambal, veal fillet and liver, celeriac puree, wild garlic and pommes Elizabeth, and chocolate – mousse and brownie, honeycomb, yoghurt and passion fruit impressed.
Alexandria (24), currently works at the Raemoir House Hotel in Banchory, following a three year stint at The Milton, near Crathes.
She said she was “over the moon” to have won the title, after coming third in the senior category last year.
“I didn’t really expect to win it,” she said, “Being up against lads that are a lot older than me and who have lots more experience.”
Alexandria has been cooking since she left school at 18 to take up a place at Angus College.
She said: “I just really enjoy cooking. I’ve learnt a lot from David Littlewood, the executive chef at The Milton, over the last few years.
“I’ll definitely be entering the competition again, to defend my title!”
Alexandria spent a stage - in cooking terms, a period of one or two weeks where a chef visits another kitchen to expose themselves to new techniques - at Andrew Fairlie’s restaurant in Gleneagles last year, and hopes to do the same this year.
“Every chef is unique, every chef is different” she said. “Heston Blumenthal intrigues me a lot, in the way he uses all the different chemicals and his whole different outlook to the industry.
“A stage is a way just to further your experience, to go into someone else’s kitchen and see how other chefs work.”
The final of this year’s competition took place on May 23 at Aberdeen College, where 32 of Aberdeen’s top chefs took part in a cook off to identify the winners in four competition categories - Grampian Chef of the Year, Grampian Young Chef of the Year, Grampian Contract Chef of the Year, and Grampian Seafood Chef of the Year.
The judging panel was made up of Kevin MacGillivray, President of the Federation of Chefs Scotland, Joe Queen, Vice President of the Federation of Chefs Scotland, Stephen McLaughlin, Head Chef, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, George McIvor – The Full Range Ltd, Ian MacDonald, Executive Chef, St Andrews Links and David Mutter, Darroch Learg Hotel, Ballater.
The competition is organised by Hospitality Training, Scotland’s only industry specific Group Training Association.
Karen Black, General Manager said: “The competition provides our sector with an opportunity to showcase the talent of chefs in Grampian.
“The competitors have been preparing for months for today’s cook off and we were most impressed with standard of dishes using locally sourced ingredients that were presented.”
Kevin MacGillivray, said “The senior contest has been tough to judge. Alexandria has done very well to win through in a hotly contested category.”
Taking the Grampian Young Chef of the Year title was Orry Shand, of Eat on the Green, while Grampian Seafood Chef was won by Sam Ritchie, The Cock and Bull. Bruce Lawrence was named Contract Chef of the Year, while the title of Grampian Restaurant of the Year went to Meldrum House Hotel.