The next generation: Michelin-starred chef Alyn Williams on helping to nurture young talent
Alyn Williams, chef of his restaurant Alyn Williams at The Westbury, Mayfair, was a judge in the recent S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 UK and Ireland local final, where 10 young chefs battled it out for the chance to represent their country, in the global final in Milan in May 2018.
We sat down with Alyn after the competition to find out how he got involved, what happened and what he would suggest for any budding young chefs in the making.
Why did you get involved with this year’s S.Pellegrino Young Chef UK & Ireland final?
I’ve known about this competition from the very beginning, when Mark Moriarty won the first title. I was invited to be a judge for this year and with no hesitation I accepted It’s a real honour to be able to be a part of such an important and prestigious competition and when I heard that Angela Hartnett would be the head judge for the UK the decision to get involved was even easier.
What characteristics / traits standout for you, as being part of a top chef’s makeup?
Determination, humility and a good work ethic are all important… then a little bit of talent!
To make it to a good position though you need to give a little bit more than the cooks around you to stand out.
What do you think makes a winning dish, at this kind of competition? Is it perfect simplicity or the more creativity the better?
The winning dish will almost always speak for itself. There’s generally something a bit special about it that stands out. It is often just a simply composed dish, cooked with precision and flare using great ingredients and good seasoning.
Killian Crowley, of the Michelin-starred Aniar in Ireland was this year’s winner with his signature dish of Turbot, kohlrabi and sea purslane. What stood out for you about this dish?
I watched all of the chefs cooking their dishes prior to tasting them. Even at that point Killian was the stand out cook. His technique and cooking style was eye catching.
The composition and balance of his dish just worked. The fish was perfectly cooked, the garnish, sauce and broth delicious and complimentary. Just a simple well thought out dish cooked very, very well.
What would you consider your own ‘signature dish’, and what do you think makes a signature dish particularly brilliant?
Signature dishes are strong dishes that display your style and personality. They usually stay on the menu for a long time too. We change our menus regularly, so we don’t have many dishes that are on for too long. If I had to choose though, I would say our Lobster taco with green gazpacho that is a firm favourite or we have a roasted monkfish dish with fennel compote and a Mauritian inspired roche carré curry sauce that has been very popular for some time.
Why do you think other young chefs should get involved in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition? What does this platform offer for their careers?
Competition is always beneficial to young chefs. It’s a great gauge of talent. It’s good for the cooks to network and talk to other cooks doing the same thing, as well as being good for confidence and experience.
Finally, it’s also a good way to get noticed, both by your peers and of course the judges and media… It can all help.
What single piece of advice would you give to other young chefs, that you wish had been given to you when starting out?
I always give the advice to young cooks to never throw in the towel just because things get tough… It’s easy to become disillusioned by hard moments in your career, but just remind yourself why you love what you do and that success often emerges from adversity.
Alyn Williams was a member of the judging panel at the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 UK and Ireland Local Final. Alyn, alongside the judging panel featuring Angela Hartnett voted for Killian Crowley of Aniar restaurant, Dublin as the winner. Killian will go on to the global final in Milan in May 2018, with the help of Angela Hartnett who will mentor Killian and help perfect his winning dish.
For more information visit, sanpellegrino.com