Years of hard work have paid off for a talented chef from the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport who is the new National Chef of Wales.
Simon Crockford, whose family home is in Tenby, cooked his way to the coveted title after a closely contested final on the last day of the Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC) held at Coleg Llandrillo, Rhos on Sea yesterday (Thursday).
Crockford, a member of the Culinary Team Wales, held off a strong challenge from five rival chefs, including Welsh teammate Jason Hughes, to collected the trophy.
In addition to title, he secured an all expenses paid, one week culinary trip to the Netherlands courtesy of Koppertcress, which includes an 'inspirational day' with a cress coach and visits to top restaurants, a set of knives courtesy of Dick Knives, £250 worth of products from Churchill China and Gourmet Classic shopping vouchers.
He will also represent Wales in the UK National Chef of the Year contest and the World Chefs' Global Chef European semi-final in October.
His winning menu opened with scorched mackerel and cured Swansea Bay sauce, rice, pickled beetroot, apple, salted cucumber, horseradish salad cream and sea herbs. Main course was Pembrokeshire free range chicken, sage, onion spelt, red cabbage puree, mushroom espuma, Halen Mon salted herb faggot, charred sweetcorn and chicken jus.
Dessert was Carmarthenshire Nomnom chocolate mousse, peanut butter, shortbread caramel ganache, banana parfait and chocolate soil.
"The final was a lot tougher than what I thought it would be," said Crockford. "I work in probably the biggest resort in Europe, but that was the hardest three hours I have ever done and I honestly didn't think I would be holding the trophy.
"I have been competing with the Culinary Team Wales for four years, have won the Battle of the Dragon and been to two Culinary Olympics, but I still have a hunger to win and this award is unbelievable. It's a reward for a lot of hard work."
Thomas Westerland from Cardiff, a sous chef at Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa, near Bath, was runner-up for the second year running with a silver medal. The other finalists were Hughes from Carreg Bran, Llanfair PG, Matthew Smith, of Mirrens Restaurant, Newtown and Star chef consultants and Matthew Ramsdale from The Chester Grosvenor, who all won bronze medals and Anthony Bush from Heronston Hotel, Bridgend, who received a merit.
The judges were Dragan Unic, World Chefs' continental director for Northern Europe, Colin Gray, Stuart McLeod and Alan Shipman.
The WICC are organised by the CAW and main sponsor is Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government's department representing the food and drink industry. Other sponsors of the WICC include Meat Promotion Wales/Hybu Cig Cymru, Castell Howell, Harlech Foods, Nuttals, Churchill, MCS Tech, Rollergrill, Koppertcress and Dick Knives.