Entries open for The Roux Scholarship 2020: Former finalists Nathan Outlaw and Bryn Williams explain how being a finalist helped their careers

Entries opened on Tuesday 12th November for The Roux Scholarship 2020 and young chefs all over the country are beginning to create their recipes for hake, clams and leeks in order to submit their entry.

More than a decade ago, top chefs Nathan Outlaw and Bryn Williams were in their shoes. Both chefs progressed to the finals in the early and mid-2000s and ­– despite not winning – found that being part of The Roux Scholarship has been of great benefit to their careers.

Nathan Outlaw, whose Port Isaac restaurant holds two Michelin stars, took part in the competition three times in the early 2000s and still values the experience. He said: “It helped me because it took me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to do more.  It’s easy to sit back and not challenge yourself when you cook in the same kitchen every day.”

The contacts he made have also been of benefit to Chef Outlaw’s career: “Being a finalist gave me a wonderful experience at the age of 22 and 23 that I still cherish today.  The people I met were have helped me in various ways throughout my career.  Also, the Roux Scholarship has a kudos that really opens doors for a young chef.  For someone serious about their craft, it’s worth every minute!”

Roux Bryn WilliamsBryn Williams got through to the finals in 2005, having also applied the year before, he said: “What I really  enjoyed was being in the mix in one of the best competitions in Europe and cooking against your peers, and being judged by these fantastic chefs. I enjoyed the professionalism of the competition too. It’s a serious competition and you need to be your very best to go through the stages to the final.”

Now that it is several years since he competed, Chef Williams, who is chef-proprietor at Odette’s in Primrose Hill and has restaurants at Somerset House and Porth Eirias in Colwyn Bay, still feels the benefit. “Even now, 10, 12, 14 years later, people say ‘Oh you did the Roux Scholarship’. People know you did it, and you’re on their radar, and that never goes away. Being associated with The Roux Scholarship is the biggest pat on the back you could get.”

Roux Scholarship judge Simon Hulstone took part in the finals twice before he eventually won it in 2003 and knows how valuable it is to the chef’s establishment as well as the chef themselves: “Competing in the finals is not only a challenge to the competitors it’s a chance to showcase what you have learnt from your mentors over the years of training. So not only is it the chef but the establishment that is being tested and highlighted.”

Chef Hulstone also acknowledges that for many chefs, like himself, it takes a few years to finally scoop the top prize. “Everyone who has competed in the Scholarship has benefitted not only from prizes and PR but they have gained a sense of maturity and knowing where they stand as a chef. Most chefs who don’t win would acknowledge they weren’t at the standard that the winner was at for that year, and so they compete again and again giving themselves the advantage of other chefs who are first timers.”

Competition details:

Applicants must submit a recipe via the Roux Scholarship website, before 31st January 2020, that includes:

One whole fresh MSC labelled hake, gutted, weighing anywhere between 1.6kg – 1.8kg (maximum 2kg) and 600g live whole grooved carpet shell / palourde clams (ruditapes decussatus); together plated with two ‘simple’ or ‘composed’ garnishes/accompaniments.  One of them must include leeks and the other to be a garnish/accompaniment of their choice.  One of these can be served separately if preferred.  A sauce must accompany the dish. Up to two and a half hours’ cooking time is allocated at the Regional Final for cooking the dish, as the recipe originally submitted and a dessert to serve four people made from a ‘mystery box’ of ingredients given on the day. Entrants must be in full-time employment as a chef in the United Kingdom and be aged 22 or above, but no older than 30 years of age on 1st February 2020. Further instructions and the rules of the competition, including maximum costings for recipe ingredients, can be found on the website www.rouxscholarship.co.uk

Competition dates

Closing date for applications – Midnight, 31st January 2020

Regional Finals at University College Birmingham and University of West London – 19th March 2020

National Final at Westminster Kingsway College, and Awards Ceremony at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park – 6th April 2020.

Judges: Three-star Michelin chef Björn Frantzén will judge the final as Honorary President of Judges, and some of the country’s best chefs are returning as judges for the regional and national finals: joining chairmen Alain Roux and Michel Roux Jr are Clare Smyth, Sat Bains, James Martin, Simon Hulstone, André Garrett, Rachel Humphrey, Brian Turner and Angela Hartnett.