Being the first to identify the next great chef, preferably while he or she is young and relatively unknown, is something that fascinates both food writers and head chefs in equal measure. The kitchens of our great restaurants have a voracious appetite for talent and tend to chew up and spit out all but the strongest and most committed. While it's well-nigh impossible to predict who will become the next Marco Pierre White, recent events have meant that it is possible to suggest a good place to start looking.
This year, something truly exceptional happened at the finals of the American Express Young Chef and Young Waiter of the Year Competition. In the chef section of the competition, a large field from all parts of Britain was whittled down to eight finalists, and three of them were from the kitchens of The Square in Mayfair, London. That alone was a remarkable achievement but then the young chefs from The Square went on to take the first, second and third prizes.
The top spot went to Simon Christey-French who has been at the Square for about three years and prior to that worked at Gidleigh Park in Devon; second place went to Josh Pelham, an Australian who has been with The Square for 18 months; while the third place went to Sinead Finnegan who joined two and a half years ago from Petit Blanc in Manchester. Though Sinead has since left The Square, the head chef Philip Howard couldn't be more proud of his protgs: "We like to cook for flavour not for gimmicks here; we use the latest techniques when appropriate, but the food should be delicious rather than clever-clever." It's worth noting that in a world where young chefs flit from one Michelin restaurant to another every nine months or so these three young people have all put in some time at The Square. Whether one of them goes on to become a household name remains to be seen, but they couldn't have a better start.
The Square, 6-10 Bruton Street, London W1 (020-7495 7100)
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