My name is John Clarke and I am sous chef at one of bartlett mitchell’s marquee sites. I have been in my current role for approximately 2 years, the majority of this time has been during the pandemic, despite this I can honestly say I really enjoy working for bartlett mitchell. I love the bmFamily💜💚 vibe and working in the kitchen with great talented individuals. This has been demonstrated so positively whilst large parts of our industry have been closed or on furlough.
Pre pandemic I entered the 2020 StrEATfood Awards and was fortunate and excited to be shortlisted for the final. Once the pandemic hit and following multiple “lockdowns” I assumed it was a distant memory and focussed my energy into reintegrating with my workplace. I was surprised in late August when I received the invitation to complete the 2020 awards (Now relabelled to 2021). I needed to review my priorities and focus back on doing what I love most, innovating with food!
So on Wednesday 29th September I competed in the StrEATfood Awards 2021. The brief was as per my original entry, to cook 3 different dishes for 3 people in an hour. It was a long time coming so I was determined to give it my best shot.
My menu consisted of:
- Signature – Miso Soused Mackerel, Chorizo, Yuzu dressed Salad and Chimichurri in a Charcoal Taco’.
- Wastage Vegan Dish – Crispy Potato Skins, Qourn Keema, Pickled Cauliflower leaves and Vegan Raita.
- Technical Dish – ‘Korean Shrimp Burger with Lime Slaw, Crispy Lotus Root and Korean Mayonnaise.
With all these dishes I tried to be a bit different, as in not seen on the high street. Concentrating on good classic flavour combinations.
On the day of competition, between some very busy days on site, I travelled to Shenley Cricket Club, after being welcomed by the organisers, I got my gear together and set up my station. I was due to cook off in group 2 but due to an applicant running late I stepped in and cooked in group 1.
Then the cooking started, which was going well, sending my signature dishes on time and to standard, but then as in true street food fashion I had a few issues with some faulty equipment. I had to think on my feet and managed to get the dishes out, albeit with 10 minutes dispensation from the organisers.
Unfortunately I didn’t come home with the trophy but was commended on my vegan dish by the quorn representative. Even though I didn’t win, I thoroughly enjoyed the process. I would recommend anyone in the food service industry to put their names forward. It was really nice to see what other ideas the chefs had, in my opinion good or bad.
Despite not winning, the experience of meeting like minded people in a professional environment was most welcome especially following the past 18 months. It was nice to see a few regular faces from other contract catering companies, we reminisced over a good few drinks.
I appreciate competition cooking is not for everyone, and it does take you out of your comfort zone but adrenalin and camaraderie make it so worthwhile, an experience. I would recommend to any aspiring chef, you never know you might walk away with the prize in 2022!