Posted on Tuesday 11 December 2018
Here at Lockhart Catering Equipment, we always take a keen interest in our industry's Chefs; with regular support for the National Chef of the Year, the Springboard Charity's Futurechef, & Craft Guild of Chefs business partnerships.
As part of this support, we felt it only right to cover the UK team's involvement in the prestigious Bocuse d'Or final with a series of insights from the Chefs that have been involved in the competition for decades...to the Candidates training intensively for the finals in January.
We spoke to Tom Phillips, Sous Chef of Restaurant Story & UK Team Captain for this year's Bocuse d'Or final, on his thoughts about this year's competition. Stay tuned, as we'll be sharing more content live from the finals in January 2019.
Above: Our Alto Tableware Range With Paul Bocuse Imagery
I started cooking when I was 16, as a pot wash in a local pub. I then ended up doing work experience at Celtic Manor after the 2010 clubhouse had opened & the kitchen staff asked me to spend the week with them. I absolutely loved it and it continued on from there.
I then got a job in Newport, met Hywel Jones at Lucknam Park. Hywel helped to set me on my path as he actually helped me get onto an apprenticeship course at Bournemouth, on the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Specialised Chef Scholarship.
I then did my work placement at The Ritz. It's a really great course...you do 3 months at college, a years placement, 3 months at college, another year placement, and then a final 3 months at college, then out into the working world.Per Se
I was there for just under 2 years due to work Visa requirements. I absolutely loved it. But when I was leaving, the executive chef there suggested that I go and work in Paris. So I ended up getting a job there for Epicure with Eric Frechon, another 3 michelin star restaurant.
But I decided it wasn't for me; I loved the romance of working in Paris, but I dropped back down to a commis chef for that position and my French wasn't improving, so progression was very hard. I did it for 3 months, and it was amazing, but by then I knew quite a lot of people from L'Enclume that worked with Simon Rogan and ended up back in the UK working there for the next 2 years. That's where I started my Bocuse training.
I was approached by Tom Sellers after that to work at Restaurant Story.
Yes, it's going really well, I've been there for around 15 months now & we're excited for next year. 2019 will be a big year.
It started when I was at The Ritz, John Williams competed in 2001 and I remember outside his office he had his certificate & medal from competing. [It was] this beautiful, elaborate, guilded award and I asked what it was. I was into competitions at the time, doing YNCOTY, and ended up googling & watching videos and started following the Bocuse d'Or.
A couple of months later, John Williams ended up getting me tickets to the 2013 final but as a London apprentice I couldn't really afford a 4 day stay & flights. But I booked the day off and watched the live stream all day. It was from that, the obsession grew.
I went to work in the states after that and Thomas Keller was the president of the US team at the time. I then met Phillip Tessier for the first time and he'd just won silver and was also previously of Per Se & The French Laundry. So all of a sudden, I'm stood in this restaurant, next to this trophy, and it felt very real.
When I was there I was working with Matthew Peters (at Per Se), and what was exciting for me was watching Matt prepare for his US National Selections, and watching Phil come in and coach him. And then Matt won it, his commis Harrison worked at Per Se, his assistant was a Chef de partie at Per Se, and it was all very Per Se orientated. I even tasted one of his final run of dishes.
He moved over to Napa Valley training facility next to The French Laundry, and when I left the US, I spent 2 weeks over in Napa Valley and I met up with Matt for some breakfast and he said 2 things:
• Either don't go to Paris, renew your US visa, and come work at The French Laundry, and help as an assistant for the US National Team. Soak up as much information as you can!
• Or, don't go to Paris, go back to the UK, knock on the door of whoever you need to knock on the door of, and say you want to help in any capacity, even if it's carrying bags!
Paris & L'Enclume
I went to Paris in the end anyway. To try it out, but only stayed for 3 months as mentioned earlier. Then I came back to the UK, sat in John Williams office, and told him I wanted to be involved in Bocuse d'Or, as an assistant, a helper, anything! It went on from there whilst I was working at L'Enclume, and John asked if I wanted to compete in National Selections as a candidate. The idea was that the outcome would be great experience, and it would be a great way to get yourself seen and be introduced to Brian (Turner).
So the training started from there, and I bought loads of equipment to keep at my flat, foraging with my flatmate for ingredients and training for Bocuse. That's how it all really started.
Restaurant Story Support
After leaving L'Enclume (and I loved my time there) to experience city life again back in London, Tom contacted me out of the blue and the timing was impeccable; I explained to him that as much as I wanted the position at Restaurant Story, I was focused on training for the Bocuse d'Or and he said from day 1 that he'd fully support that. He's been great with it moving forward.
In the meantime, you can immerse yourself in the sounds of the competition, as Tom & Nathan do during their preparation by watching a summary of the 2017 finals in Lyon here:
You can find Tom & Nathan competing from 09:30am on Tuesday 29th January, with the final announcement at 6pm on Wednesday 30th January 2019 at Sirha Trade Show in Lyon. They will be judged not only on their food offering, but also on their methodology, communication, the commis chef ability, conduct, cleanliness, clean-down & much more.
Read more about the details of the Bocuse d'Or and the UK team here.