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Caithness chef scoops top prize

Sous chef Robert Smith was served the prestigious title Young Highland Chef at this year’s contest, which took place in Burghfield House, Dornoch.

The competition, which has now entered its fifth year, is jointly run by North Highland College UHI and the Roux consultancy and asks aspiring chefs aged 18-30 to submit a 3 course dinner menu for consideration. For 2014, it was stipulated that he menu must include langoustine in the starter, beef in the main and apple in the sweet, with a budget of just £20 per head. From the entrants, there were 7 finalists shortlisted, and the young chefs were invited to cook their dishes for a panel of judges, headed by renowned chef Albert Roux.

Robert, who is employed as sous chef by the Ulbster Arms in Halkirk, Caithness, served up a storm which wowed the judges, beating his rivals to the coveted title. On accepting his award, Robert said “I’m delighted… I started cooking with my gran and it’s something I enjoy. It’s not just been a great occasion for me, but for all the competitors and the Highlands and it’s good that such high-profile judges come up to support the event.”

At the ceremony, Mr Roux expressed his joy at seeing so many talented young chefs coming in to their own, and was impressed by the quality of the candidates, stating that this year’s talent was the best in the competition’s history. “The standard of cooking was better than last year or the year before. It’s great to see it lifting.” he said. “In Scotland we are blessed with a beautiful larder and it’s important we have cookery skills for tourism, one of the Highland’s most important industries.”

In addition to an award of £500 and a trophy, Robert won a week’s work experience at the Roux family’s two Michelin-starred restaurant, La Gavroche, in London.