By Angela Green
They say that hospitality is an international affair. That was certainly true at the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill on Friday night, when the results of the Chaine des Rotisseurs GB Young Chef and Young Sommelier of the Year were announced. Of the eight finalists, all working in the UK, no fewer than five countries were represented.
Winner of the prestigious Young Chef title was the talented Polish chef, Maciej Pisarek, 26, and demi chef de parti in The Savoy’s pastry kitchen – while the Young Sommelier award went to Italian sommelier Melania Battiston from London’s Medlar restaurant where she is Head Sommelier and wine buyer. Both will go on to compete for the UK at the Chaine’s worldwide finals in the autumn.
Greek Michalis Kashis from the Harrods kitchens came second in the Chef competition, and in joint third place were Englishman Jason Ramplin from Chewton Glen and Italian Jacob Taglione from Grantley Hall in Yorkshire. Chewton Glen featured in the Sommelier finals too where Tristan Wright came joint third with Frenchman Leonard Lievin of The Fat Duck, Bray. Runner up to Melania was French sommelier Melina Soulavie working at Helene Darroze at The Connaught.
Before coming to the UK two and a half years ago, Maciej Pisarek had already won accolades in his native Poland as a commis chef, including the Bocusse d’Or and the country’s Culinary Cup. ‘But it was always my biggest dream to graduate from London’s Le Cordon Bleu, with a Grand Diploma in cuisine and patisserie’, he explains. ‘I love working in both areas, where I can connect new ideas and transfer techniques.
He credits Nicolas Houchet, The Savoy’s Executive Pastry Chef as his mentor. ‘I am very honoured to be representing Great Britain in the international finals in Istanbul this October, he comments.’ I know I have a lot to do to achieve the best result, so I will be working hard with Nicolas and other inspiring chefs over the summer. And the Chaine will also be organising some placements for me.
Maciej’s triumph didn’t end there. With SAMAC – Macadamias South Africa – as a major new donor to Chaine GB, a specially created trophy was presented to the chef who had made the best use of the macadamia nuts from their ‘mystery box ‘of ingredients during the culinary competition at the Knorr development kitchens. Maciej’s creation – chicken breast stuffed with chicken thigh, chestnut mushrooms, and macadamia nuts – won the judges’ unanimous vote.
Meanwhile, in the Sommelier’s competition, held at The Savoy last month, the Young Sommelier of the Year Melania Battiston not only scored the highest points in all disciplines – wine knowledge, blind tasting and table service – to take the overall title, but also the top score to win the Gerard Basset Tasting Trophy. ‘I also won this trophy three years ago’ she smiles. ’It just shows how important it is to be consistent and keep up tasting disciplines. You never stop learning.’
Melania- originally from Pavia, but who becomes a UK citizen next month – has been at Medlar for five years, working her way up to the top of the tree, and winning awards and recognition along the way. ‘It was Clement Robert at the 28/50 group who first took me under his wing’, she explains. ‘He taught me everything I know – so when I found he was now one of the judges, I really had to raise my game. I needed to show him my best – it was quite challenging!
That she obviously did. Helped, perhaps, by her Cambridge studies in psychology during lockdown.’ It has been very useful in my career, showing me how to listen to guests, approach them with the right angle and understand what they are looking for. Now I hope it will be the same for the International Finals in Slovenia this September. I am really proud to have been selected to compete for Great Britain.’
No doubt it will feature in Melania’s podcast series with David O’Connor, co-owner, and Front of House Manager at Medlar……who has supported Melania every step of the way.
‘Once again, we have had some exceptional young talent in this year’s competitions’, comments Philip Evins, Bailli Délégué for the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs GB, who presented the Awards, ‘and we know how important it is to nurture the future stars of the industry. We wish them every success this autumn when they compete for us on the global stage. We have so much confidence in their talent we are sure they will smash it!
Over 80 guests joined Philip, and the organisers of both competitions – Ben Purton and Leslie Cuthbert – at the Churchill Hotel for a glittering five-course dinner, created by Executive Chef Carlo Martino, to honour the 2023 finalists and title holders. The finalist chefs were each given professional knives from Wusthof and bottles of Nyetimber English sparkling wine, while the sommeliers were awarded a set of Zwiesel glasses with their bottles of Nyetimber. ‘Our very grateful thanks to all our supporters – Bragard, Wusthof, Zwiesel Glass, Bidfood, CSP, Uropa, Chelmer Foods and of course SAMAC – without whom these Awards would not be possible.
Maciej Pisarek’s winning menu:
- Monkfish tail with spring salad, aromatic mussels and herb mayonnaise
- Chicken breast stuffed with chicken thigh, chestnut mushrooms and macadamia nuts, with crispy skin crumble, potato fondant filled with chicken rillette, asparagus and classic jus
- Raspberry tart with vanilla chantilly and raspberry coulis.