Just two points separated the top four chefs after the keenly contested National Chef of Wales semi-finals cook-off.
The quartet will now go through to the final to be held at the Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC) at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Rhos-on-Sea on Thursday, February 28.
The winner will be invited to a study tour hosted by Koppert Cress in the Netherlands and will receive a set of engraved F. Dick Knives and £250 worth of Churchill tableware.
Last year’s Junior Chef of Wales winner, Arron Tye, 23, remains on course to complete the double by adding the National Chef of Wales trophy to his collection after clinching his final place.
He is one of three chefs from the Chester Grosvenor, Chester to win their way through to the final. Matthew Ramsdale, 26, will be hoping it’s third time lucky after twice before being a runner up in the final, whilst Sam Griffiths, 24, is a final debutant.
Joining them will be Gavin Kellett, 33, from The Three Horseshoes Inn, Groesffordd, Brecon, a finalist for the second time. He was the only chef from the morning’s first semi-final at Coleg y Cymoedd, Ystrad Mynach to clinch a place.
The judges were Coin Gray, Capital Cuisine, Caerphilly, Nick Davies, Culinary Team Wales manager from Cambrian Training Company, Welshpool, Danny Burke, Olive Tree Catering, Runcorn and Stuart McLoed, managing director of Zuidam UK Ltd, Tewkesbury.
“They were very closely fought semi-finals with some outstanding cooking by the competitors, which we expected due to the calibre of chefs,” said Mr Gray, chairman of the judges.
“They produced top quality fine dining dishes, which substantiated our view that Wales has some great chefs. There were just a couple of points separating the top four chefs which augurs well for next month’s final.”
He praised the chefs’ use of the Welsh food and drink products in their dishes and was impressed how they responded to the challenge of creating a vegan starter.
“We had seven interesting vegetarian options and all the chefs embraced the challenge completely,” he said.
The other semi finalists were Matthew Smith, 35, from Milebrook House Hotel, Knighton; Sam Ricketts, 24, Llandudno Bay Hotel, Llandudno and Wayne Barnard, 36, from Glendale Hotel, Penarth.
The chefs were given three hours to cook and serve up a three-course menu for four people, using mostly Welsh products. They must cook a vegan starter, a main course using two different cuts of Welsh Beef and a dessert including chocolate as the main ingredient.
Kellett’s menu included a starter of Waldorf salad with Blodyn Aur emulsion, Tyr Gobaith faux pickled apples, poached celeriac, burnt apple and walnut bread. Main course was Butty Bach glazed fillet of Welsh Beef, braised oxtail, Menai oyster, baked potato foam, beef dripping confit carrots and grain crust. Dessert was Nom Nom Chocolate and Penderyn whisky set custard, peanuts, Welsh honeycomb and Halen Mon salted caramel.
Ramsdale’s menu comprised a salad coch starter with beets, blackberry, rhubarb and wild herbs followed by a main course of Welsh Black Beef with burnt onion, kidney, Pen-Lon Ale and HP Sauce. Dessert was 70% and Halen Mon: salted dark chocolate delice, Muscovado, banana and lime.
Griffiths’ menu comprised a starter of Halen Mon pineapple, green mole, chilli and coriander followed by a main course of Welsh Black fillet, veal sweetbread bon bons, Purple Moose silver skins and roasted bone marrow. Dessert was Da Mhile Oren: salted chocolate cremeaux, iced beetroot and pistachio.
Tye’s menu opened with a starter of braised smoked quinoa, saffron, spiced textures of brassicas and pan-fried king oyster mushroom. Main course was charcoal crusted beef fillet with sticky, pressure cooked beef cheek, textures of onion, creamy pomme puree and rich jus. Dessert was dark chocolate yuzu tart, textures of pistachio and crème fraiche sorbet.
The WICC are organised by the CAW and main sponsor is Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government’s department representing the food and drink industry. Other sponsors include Castell Howell, Harlech Foods, Churchill, Koppert Cress, Dick Knives, Roller Grill, MCS Technical Products and Major.