Runner Up – Andrew Leonard – Profile

Andrew also worked incredibly hard to get to this year’s Chef Stagiaire Final; first Andrew Leonard - Pea Panna Cotta coming over for a week to do his Phase 2 stage at Lords of the Manor with Executive head Chef Richard Edwards and his team, where Richard offered him a position in the brigade! Then coming back for the Final Phase week at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal with Executive Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts and his 2 Michelin star, Dinner team.

Since leaving school Andrew has completed his NVQ up to Level 3 at South West College, at both the Dungannon and Enniskillen campus’.

  • NVQ Level 2 in Professional Cookery – 2009
  • NVQ Level 3 in Professional Cookery – 2011
  • NVQ Level 3 in Hospitality, Supervision and Leadership – 2014
  • Intermediate Food Safety and HACCP Analysis – 2014

As well as his studies, Andrew is a keen competition entrant, with a variety of fantastic achievements to his name so far in his career;

  • Silver/Finalist in Chef Stagiaire Award 2015
  • Finalist in BCF Young Chef of the Year, Great Britain, November 2012
  • Finalist in BCF Young Chef of the Year, Great Britain, November 2013
  • IFEX Northern Ireland Young Chef of the Year, March 2014
  • Recipient of the BCF Johnnie Borra Award, May 2014


Andrew Leonard - Stone BassAndrew has worked his way up through the ranks and is now thoroughly enjoying being responsible for the Loughside Bar & Grill at The Lough Erne Resort, Enniskillen, under the guidance and mentorship of Executive Head Chef, Noel McMeel.

We wish Andrew the best with his career and will keep an eye out for news of further achievements in the near future.

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Alex Corley Diary for Alyn Williams at The Westbury 2015

Diary for Chef Stagiaire – Semi Finalist

Name: Alex Corley

Restaurant: Alyn Williams at The Westbury, London

Marinated langoustine mackerel scallop kiwi cucumber arrow grassDAY 1

Getting the opportunity to work at Alyn Williams was an absolute privilege. The first thing when I arrived that took my focus was the setting, set in the heart of Mayfair in the Westbury Hotel, Alyn Williams restaurant, I couldn’t wait to dive in.

The first day, every chef, from the minute I walked in made me feel welcome.  I spent most of my time on the larder section on day 1 where I learnt a lot of new ingredients and ways to prepare them and cook them. The chefs on the section where kind and helpful to my experience here which made it even more enjoyable and informative. My personal favourite element and dish was the aerated foe grois, blew me away on presentation and skill. What made this interesting for me, I had never heard of the idea of aerated foe grois, served chilled from the freezer. It was served with pickled beetroot, pistachios and brioche. The pickled beetroots were cooked in their own juices to really enhance that main flavour. It was prepared very differently to what I have seen before. They use a special machine that turns the beetroot while slicing, so it comes out in perfect ribbons. Never seeing that before interested me. The brioche was a little rectangular finger, then it had a small parisienne scoop taken out the top of them. Then once charred on every side on the grill the holes where filled with a delicious sour cherry puree. It was gorgeous!! My favourite dish by far.

alyn williams at the westbury 2015When it came to the service Alyn Williams allowed me to have my own tasting menu. I tried every dish they had on the tasting menu which was really kind of everyone to prepare this for me. The dishes where sensational, and what really caught my attention was the amount of elements on each dish. Each dish consisted of at least five to six elements that combined together where delicious. I would say my second favourite dish had to be the pigeon, just on the style and the amount of elements on one plate, it astounded me. It was roasted pigeon, with white asparagus charred on the grill, poached onion shells filled with a curry mayonnaise and cucumber. That dish was amazing!! The other main course was lamb nicoise. Coming from a classical kitchen in my earlier years, dishes like that really interest me and you can never go wrong with the classical combinations in my opinion.



On my second day I again spent most of my time on larder, doing mise en place throughout the day. Whatever job was thrown my way I took on, but as most of the jobs I had done before there were some jobs that I had never seen before and wrote down for future interest. That is what I found good about the week, there was quite a lot of methods and ingredients that I had never come across before but that was the main point of the week, to see what a Michelin kitchen was like and to learn about different produce.


alyn williams at the westbury 2015 #2Day three was different. I spent time on larder but also helping out on the vegetable section which for me was quite familiar as that is the section I work on at Colette’s. Also watching over the fish meat and sauce section. That really interested me because I have never been on that section before so to ask questions and be explained how to cook meat and fish blew me away. Obviously every kitchen has different methods on cooking meat and fish and how to hold meat once cooked, but to give some information on how the restaurant I work at does it and compare it to how they do it interested me and some of the chefs that worked there to. I loved to watch Alyn Williams at the pass, watching how he ran service and plating up. I was watching a master at work.


Day four consisted of me working on pastry. Learning about the breads, deserts and the canapés which come from the bread section. See as you go from kitchen to kitchen you see different ways of kitchen set up. The restaurant I work at has the bread sent from pastry and the canapés has a separate section. Alyn Williams had four different breads when I was there which amazed me. Everyone different and unique in their own way.  The deserts blew me away, every desert was originated from a classical dish but had Alyn’s twist on it. My favourite had to be the strawberry pavlova with anise hyssop, the flavours where sensational and also never hearing of anise hyssop before opened my eyes to a new ingredient. It was a real aniseed taste like fennel or star anise, really strong on the palate. The dish was on the tasting menu and watching the production of all the elements on the dish amazed me. I think being on the pastry through the last couple of days interested me the most as I have never even touched pastry in any restaurant I have worked at. I have done simple classical deserts at college but not the level of quality like here. Alyn allowed me to try the deserts, this really engaged me into the flavours and how every element on the dish combined with each other and looked stunning.


The last day was, to me, the best day, definitely. Not because it was my last day but the day that the most happened in my eyes. Saturday I had to cook for Alyn Williams and his Sous Chef. I prepared a fennel gazpacho for the amuse bouche and then my poached cod with spring vegetables for main course. Alyn and the Sous Chef tried them. Personally for myself I wasn’t 100% happy with what I produced but in the end it came out very close to how I wanted it. It was really helpful getting feedback from Alyn because he didn’t just focus on the good things he gave me some really constructive criticism which in my eyes really helped me and I took a lot away from it. Obviously getting feedback from a chef like Alyn Williams you’re going to take every bit of feedback and improve on them later in life will hopefully help me. I never thought in years that I would have the opportunity to have a Michelin Starred chef such as Alyn Williams try my food so I am so grateful to Chef Stagiaire Award for giving me that opportunity. To end a great day during service I was asked to help out in service, including plating up one of the star dishes on the 3rd course of the tasting menu, the foe grois. I really got into it as the Saturday night service was a lot more hands on because of the volume of covers we were serving. I really got on with every single chef in that kitchen, all of them made me feel like part of the team. Alyn made it a terrific experience for me and one I will never, ever forget!!!

Alyn Williams’s tasting menu literally blew me away from start to finish. This is what I tried. Through the week i got to prepare and learn every element and method in creating these dishes.

  • Marinated langoustine/mackerel/scallop/kiwi/cucumber/arrow grass
  • Monkfish/ramsons/kohl rabi/morels
  • Aerated foie gras/beetroot/sour cherries/pistachio
  • Barbequed Holstein tartare/Mersea oyster/mustards/grelot
  • Glazed pigeon / white asparagus / dukka spice / turmeric yoghurt OR Herdwick lamb / niçoise / tomato / tagette
  • Cheese selection
  • Meyer lemon/caramel popcorn/vanilla
  • Strawberry Pavlova/anise hyssop

Alex Corley, Chef Stagiaire Award, Semi Finalist 2015

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Rory Welch – Diary for stage at Sir Charles Napier

Chefs Stagiaire Award Semi Finalist Diary – Rory Welch

The Sir Charles Napier

Day 1

I arrived at the Restaurant at 8.30am. It wasn’t the easiest place to find and it took some searching for but when I arrived I found it to be a stunning setting off the beaten track in Oxfordshire.  I entered by the front door so it gave me a chance to see the dining room. It has the relaxed feel of a pub with its casual seating and furniture but still has quality in abundance and the required contemporary touches, for example tables are laid with solid silver cutlery.  I met the team that I would be working with for the day. Antony, the Head Chef wasn’t working that day so I would be spending the day with the sous chef Trystan, Junior sous Sam and Chef de Partie Theo.

Trystan gave me a tour around the kitchen and then showed me where to get changed. To start the day I was working with Theo on the larder section. He had me preparing the heirloom tomatoes to confit, crispy frying vegetables for garnishes on the mains such as artichokes, aubergine and shallot; he also had me cutting julienne kohlrabi for the crab starter. The atmosphere in the kitchen was really relaxed.  The guys were having a laugh and were very welcoming towards me and made me feel right at home.  My first impressions of the kitchen were that it was a very well used kitchen and that the team were doing very well with the equipment that they had available to them. For service I was on the pass with Trystan, watching the brigade work and tasting the components of a full dish on one spoonful.

One of the desserts I tried was salted caramel, chocolate and peanut terrine, olive oil fluid gel and lime ice cream. The way the components of the dish were put together were very clever.  The bitter and salty chocolate terrine was made more smooth and palatable by the olive oil fluid gel; then the palate was cleansed by the sharp citrus of the lime ice cream. Delicious! It wasn’t really busy on this day which was good in a way as I was able to really quiz the chefs on what they were doing and they willingly gave me time and help in order to understand what they were doing.  It was a good first day, the start to a great week.

Cornish Crab with Kohlrabi, White Soy and Coriander

Salted caramel, chocolate and peanut terrine with lime ice cream

Pictures: Cornish Crab with Kohlrabi, White Soy and Coriander. Salted caramel, chocolate and peanut terrine with lime ice cream

Day 2

Day 2 of my stage at the Napier I arrived at 8.30am. Today I met the Head Chef, Antony Skeats, a very nice guy from the North West who quizzed me a lot about where I work, what I do there, the sort of food we serve, hours we do etc. I was then set to work and put onto the sauce section with Sam the Junior Sous Chef.

I started by making a mushroom ketchup for a rib of beef dish they serve for 2. They have a few different flavoured ketchups with a technique and product I’ve never seen before by making a fluid gel which is just like a thickened liquid from either fruit of vegetable; the product they use to do this is Gellan F. This I found really interesting and it is something that I will take back to my place of work.  I then prepared the mire poix for stocks and together with Sam made 3 sauces, the iberico pork sauce, lamb sauce and bouillabaisse sauce. All 3 sauces were packed with so much flavour but the one that really stood out the most for me was the bouillabaisse. It was cooked very quickly, simmered for a timed 1 hour, then rapidly reduced until it was really concentrated, taken off the heat and left to cool. It was then emulsified with olive oil with an immersion blender like a mayonnaise, something I’d never seen before. It was thinned down with a little cream and seasoned with salt, Pernod and lemon.

I then made the fresh gnocchi for the cod dish which I had only made it once before so it was good for me to be able to practice this classic technique.  For service I was on the pass again but with Antony this time. Whilst there only 10 booked things got busy and we ended up doing 30 covers.  I helped with the plating of the dishes when it was busy; the brigade were much focused and the service ran like clockwork.

Cornish Cod with Tomato and Mussel Ketchup, Gnocchi and Tapenadesir charles napier chefs june2015

Pictures: Cornish Cod with Tomato and Mussel Ketchup, Gnocchi and Tapenade

Day 3

On Day 3, I worked on all stations around the kitchen on this day doing a variety of jobs for all sections such as making a herb oil using olive oil, hard herbs such as Thyme, Rosemary, Garlic and Bay Leaves which were gently warmed on the side of the stove then taken off the heat left to cool then the herbs passed out. Hispi cabbage for the iberico pork dish was cooked with this herb oil.  It was cooked sous vide 85 degrees for 25 minutes; the herb oil gave the cabbage a real depth of flavour.

Something else I did which I found very interesting was that on a service when cooking meat and fish. They don’t finish their meat or fish with butter taking it to beurre noisette stage and basting, instead they make a big batch of beurre noisette and when finishing their meat or fish they have a finishing brush and brush it with this butter which gives you a more consistent product and saves lots of money on butter; this I also thought would be very useful!

One thing I found when working here and admired, was the way the chefs were very quick, very focused and meticulous on a morning getting the prep done. On service I was on the larder section, cooking and dressing plates.  I was in charge of the pigeon dish and chargrilling the asparagus for the asparagus starter; both dishes proved to be very popular. Looking around when it was busy I noticed that the team still paid great attention to detail and the high level of concentration and consistency shown by the chefs was a great thing to see.

wood pigeon

Pictures: Wood Pigeon, Heritage Tomatoes, Balsamic Onions and Smoked Tomato Dressing

Day 4

My final day at the Napier I started by helping out on the meat and fish preparation. On this day it was explained to me by the chefs that most of the meat and fish for the weekend arrives today, and lots came in!!!! From live crabs and lobsters to Iberico pork loins, beef fore ribs sides of hake, cod and diver caught scallops.

I learnt a new technique, cooking lobsters sous vide in a water bath, and the way they prepare their sides of fish by skinning heavily salting, rinsing and rolling in cling film really tight and vacuum packing so the shape is perfect, something I also had never seen done before.

Throughout the week I have seen absolutely stunning produce, from meat and fish through to vegetable and fruit. For example the fruit and vegetable supplier brought some raspberries that he grows himself on his farm and they were hands down the best I’ve ever tasted!! It was clear to me that it’s not just the skill of the chef and the techniques used but it’s also about sourcing the best produce no matter the cost.

I had a fantastic week at the Sir Charles Napier it was great to experience a different restaurant style to what I am used to. I’m very grateful to Antony Skeats and his team for finding time to explain things to me and making me feel at home in their kitchen. They made me feel so much at home that I was offered work with them on a permanent basis which flattered me and I’m seriously considering. Amazing experience – thoroughly enjoyed my week.

Rory Welch, June 2015

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Andrew Leonard – Diary for Lords of the Manor


I arrived into the kitchen and was immediately greeted by the Sous Chef Paul. My first job was to pick the Crab meat for the Crab starter, after this I was shown the entire Crab dish which consisted of the picked crab, mixed with crème fraiche, a potato mousse, brown crab jelly, brown crab mousse and an oyster emulsion, this was the stand out dish of the day for me, as it took simple flavours and really give a wow factor, it was also great to see the consistency and quality of the plating during service.


I was on the Pastry section with Paul, I aided him in weighing out and cooking the selection of yeast breads that were sent out with the appetisers. This was completely different for me as my experience with using yeast in breads with confined to my college days years ago! During service I was allowed to plate up canapés and then serve the breads to order along with the appetisers, which that day was a Jerusalem artichoke Panna cotta with a light chicken jelly and foam on top. This was exquisite when I was tasted it, it was an explosion of flavours in two mouthfuls.


I was on to the starter section with the Demi Chef de Partie Dan. My first job was to pick herbs. This was a long task but it was an eye opener for me as I saw the amount of attention to detail that went into every job there. I had to cut chives in exact measurements, pick dill that had three prongs and pick the leaves off thyme leaves. I then went onto prep the canapés for the evening. These consisted of creamed smoked Eel fritters with horseradish and pickled cucumber, Cheese filled Pastries with Parma Ham and Crisp Chicken skins, with Chicken jelly, Ham jelly Tarragon and Filo Brique tuilles. These were an amazing thing to see and they were packed with flavour in a tiny mouthful. During service I was plating up Canapés to order and was trusted to assist plate up the starters.


On Day four, I was back in the starter section. This time I was straight off picking herbs then straight onto the canapés again. This time is was Hazelnut creams with Parmesan Sable and Grated Parmesan, Foie Gras cigars and Beetroot with white balsamic. This was a good experience for me as I got to learn new techniques like making the cigar tubes out of Filo Brique, making a Foie gras parfait, and getting to use some of their Sosa products which are a range of molecular enhancement products. During service I was helping again to plate up the starters. I was able to refine the plating which is very precise and consistent and was able to do a proper swipe of their gingerbread puree (another new technique I learned). I was also keenly watching the Exec Chef Richard plate up and looking at the elegance of the presentation whilst I was sending appetisers and canapés.


It was time for me to do my competition entry for Chef. I started off by crisping my apple slices and setting my Panna Cotta. This was followed by making the Caramelised Apple Butter and prepping the main course. This was great as I was able to show Chef my own style of food that I was doing in Northern Ireland. I plated up the amuse bouche and main course and let him try it. He was reasonably impressed i think! He complimented the flavours and seasoning. He had a few small points about each course, eg adding another apple element to the amuse bouche and adding more veg and possibly a puree to the main course. This was fantastic advice as it gives me a opportunity to refine and perfect each dish using advice from a consistent Michelin star winning Chef.


Today I went in earlier with the Chef de Partie to help prep the fish order and to find out more about how they make their stocks and jus. This was a bit of a new experience as their methods of making stocks are slightly different to what I am used to. Also their finishing techniques were slightly different. But when I was able to taste the finished jus’ the flavour was mind blowing. That night, instead of the regular a la carte menu, the restaurant only offered a tasting menu which made service an awful lot easier and I was able to see more things happening around the kitchen, as each course went out all at once. To my amazement at the end of every course Chef also made me up an extra plate! This started off with their Crab plate, followed by a barbequed Stuffed Chicken wing with sweetcorn puree, followed by Turbot with wilted baby gem, farfalle pasta and a truffle butter emulsion. Main course was beef fillet with ox cheek ravioli, asparagus and the afore mentioned jus. Dessert then was Pistachio and Apple Cheesecake.

This really rounded up the whole week for as I was not only able to see , prepare and cook amazing foods, I was then able to taste it, and I can honestly say that it was some of the best food I have ever had in my life and i savoured every single mouthful.

After service I spoke to Chef and his team, thanking them for what was a fantastic week and thanking them for their patience and friendliness towards me. What an amazing experience and this is the exactly the type of kitchen i would love to work in future.

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