OCTOBER 2016: A talented young chef whose family home is in Cardiff will be flying the flag for Wales in the National Chef of the Year final at the Restaurant Show in London next week.
Thomas Westerland, 26, head chef at the Michelin starred Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa, Colerne, near Chippenham, is one of 10 chefs who have won their way through to a final cook off on Tuesday, October 3. The competition is organised by the Craft Guild of Chefs.
Runner-up in the National Chef of Wales contest for the past two years, Thomas steps up to the UK stage this time against the likes of Will Holland, executive chef of the Atlantic Hotel, Jersey who was previously at Coast Restaurant, Saundersfoot.
He will also be competing against fellow head chef at Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa, Dean Westcar, this year’s Roux Scholarship winner Luke Selby, England Culinary Team captain Simon Webb and Young National Chef of the Year 2013 Ben Champkin.
“I decided to enter National Chef of the Year to test myself against top chefs in the industry,” said Thomas, a product of Cardiff and Vale College. “I really enjoyed coming up with dishes for the brief this year because it tested chefs’ ability to come up with simple but brilliant dishes using seasonal ingredients.
“To win the final would mean everything to me. It would prove that all the long hours and hard work put into my career over the past few years have paid off. It would mean so much to be listed with such inspirational previous winners, as an ambassador for the industry.”
In the final, the chefs must cook a starter using shellfish and pasta, a main course using venison and a British apple dessert. They are given two hours to cook four plates of each course.
After completing his college studies, Thomas worked at The Fig Tree, near Cardiff for three years, learning the importance of sourcing fresh, local and seasonal food and progressing from a commis chef to sous chef.
He then joined Welsh executive chef Hywel Jones at Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa and has worked his way up from a demi chef de partied with dedication and hard work. He has worked both in the two rosette Brasserie and the one Michelin star restaurant at Lucknam Park, where he says his basic skills have been refined.
Inspired by eating the inspirational food of other chefs, he says he owes a lot to Hywel Jones for his encouragement and tuition at every stage of his development. “I wouldn’t be the chef I am today without him,” he added.
Thomas hopes to compete for a place in the Culinary Team Wales in the future but for now he is putting his dream of representing his country on the back burner whilst he focuses on his recently acquired head chef role at Lucknam Park and the National Chef of the Year final.
He also plans to make a third attempt to win the National Chef of Wales title following the launch of the 2018 competition this week and has his sights on next year’s Roux Scholarship.
“I would love to come back to Wales to open my own restaurant in the future, but it all depends where my career takes me,” added Tom, whose family live in St Mellons, Cardiff.
For more information please contact Arwyn Watkins, Culinary Association of Wales president, on Tel: 01938 555893 or Duncan Foulkes, publicity officer, on Tel: 01686 650818.