Elior UK has announced Jessica-May Gardiner as the winner of its first ever Young Chef of the Year Competition, after an intense culinary competition for chefs aged 23 and younger on 16 January. Hosted at Unilever’s UK Headquarters, a total of three finalists from various Elior businesses around the country took to the stage to showcase their creativity, versatility and technical skills.
With employee development at the heart of Elior, The Young Chef of the Year award was created to nurture and celebrate budding chef talent within the diverse areas of the business.
Guided by their mentors at Elior, Jessica-May Gardiner, Mihai Alexandru and Jeremy Deas participated in series of challenges to compete for the coveted title. These included a fish filleting skills test using sustainable fish, a plated main course (cooking their own recipe using the fish), and an authentic oriental main course including one unusual oriental ingredient which the competitors researched and discussed with the judges.
Jessica-May set herself apart with her signature dishes of Chalk Stream trout with pomegranate molasses and mixed beets, and vegan Char Sui pulled jackfruit with sticky rice, vegetables and pan fried yardlong beans, displaying excellent creativity and precision. Mentored by support chef Matt Fay, Jessica-May is currently chef de partie at Waters Corporation, headquartered in Wilmslow.
Aside from taking home the coveted Young Chef of the Year trophy, she will be joining executive chef John Williams MBE at The Ritz for a day and will attend the Elior Awards of Excellence as a guest of honour on Wednesday 20 March.
Peter Joyner, food development director at Elior said: “Junior chefs are the future of our industry so competitions like this are a great opportunity for them to grow, learn and improve. There’s also a real skills shortage in the industry, so encouraging and motivating young people is essential. Although competitions demand a lot of time, energy and dedication, competing can take chefs all over the world. It’s about finding someone with that passion and dedication to take it that step further and go the extra mile to achieve.
“Congratulations to Jessica and our other finalists – I hope they all go away from today with the buzz of competing, desperate to succeed. The world really is their oyster.”