A Peterborough chef will be hoping to impress some of the food industry’s leading lights tomorrow (Thursday) as he looks to progress in the UK’s most prestigious cooking challenge.
Karl O’Dell got his first taste of the hospitality trade doing his NVQ level 2 and 3 at Peterborough Regional College more than a decade ago, while serving his apprenticeship in the kitchens at Peterborough United and the Great Northern Hotel.
At 19 he headed for the bright lights of London, working his way up from commis chef for Colette’s at The Grove Hotel to junior sous chef.
He later spent two years at The Artichoke in Amersham before joining Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus restaurant in Knightsbridge.
Tomorrow, he will be up against 17 other chefs in one of two regional finals of the world renowned Roux Scholarship competition, which has been running for more than 30 years and proved a launchpad for some of the country’s top chefs.
Twenty-nine-year-old Karl, who grew up in North Bretton, and went to Bretton Woods Community School, will be competing in the London heat, at the University of West London, in Ealing, where the judging panel will include Michel Roux Jr and a whole host of Michelin-starred chefs.
Up for grabs is a coveted place in the national final later this month - and the chance to win a three-month posting at a 3 star Michelin restaurant not to mention invaluable advice and guidance from the Roux family.
“I got through to the final of the National Chef of the Year competition last year, which was the first time I had done anything like that,” said Karl.
“ I won my semi-final and finished in the top four in the final - cooking in front of thousands of people live at Olympia in London - which spurred me on to enter the Roux Scholarship,” he added.
The 2018 Roux Scholarship first round involved him submitting a recipe, costings and photos of a completed dish - which had to include whole gilthead sea bream and a variety of mollusc, served plated with two simple or compose’ garnishes/accompaniments, to include green globe artichokes.
“It was quite a long, detailed application process - about six hours - but they must have liked it because I made it through from hundreds of applications,” he said.
Tomorrow’s competition will see Karl prepare and cook his dish in a tense two-and-a-half hours.
Having achieved one of his ambitions - working for Gordon Ramsay - Karl now has his sights on the scholarship and his owning his own restaurant in the future.