Commenting on the win, Julianne Forrestal, executive craft development chef, said, “We’re absolutely delighted with the win. Competitions like this are very much a collaborative effort and excellent results all come down to excellent teamwork. The dishes were discussed with the chefs and chosen to complement each other and showcase the chefs’ skillsets to their best advantage. That’s where the role of the competition mentors comes in, to look at the overall picture and ensure that a balanced menu is delivered.”
It was an open competition with no specified fish, meat or vegetable element and each chef took responsibility for a course. Every dish was paired with a wine chosen in consultation with James Archer of O’Brien Wines.
For the starter, Nicky Reid, Sodexo Ireland’s 2017 Chef of the Year, opted for a dish that he plans to serve in the upcoming Sodexo UK & Ireland Chef of the Year competition at the UK’s Hotelympia. His linguine with a pecorina emulsion and black truffle was, unusually, paired with a red wine rather than a white to allow the complex flavours of the dish to shine. According to Julianne,” We opted for a vegetarian starter, because of the growing demand of our consumer base for dishes of this type and it had to complement, rather than overpower, the very rich flavours of the venison-based main course.”
Phelim Byrne, who joined Sodexo recently and is a well-known chef in his home county of Wexford, went for an entrée of pan roasted fillet of Wicklow venison with smoked guinea fowl and black pudding boudain, mixed beets, kumquat puree, fondant potatoes and port reduction. Phelim is no stranger to culinary competitions and he chose this dish because venison is a very lean and favourable meat that combines well with the earthy pudding and smoked guinea fowl leg, with the beets and port jus adding a balancing sweetness.
Team captain and competition veteran Dennis McCarroll’s dessert of a chocolate teacake with coconut mallow and mango puree was bestowed the coveted 100% mark and chosen to complement the two dishes going before.
Brendan O’Neill, culinary director, Panel of Chefs of Ireland and judging chairman, commented "Sodexo’s winning entry in the Contract Caterers Culinary Challenge was a well-balanced and tasty meal from start to finish and I was privileged to enjoy it.”
Margot Slattery, country president, Sodexo Ireland, said, “A superb result that is testament to our commitment towards delivering top quality, locally sourced, great-tasting food to our clients every day. My congratulations to the team, their competition mentors and other colleagues who have supported them. As a former chef myself, I know that success at competitions like this is only due to long hours of practice, teamwork and support. Their win means a great deal to the company and we are all extremely proud of their achievement.”