Thomas Cook’s Fiona Rafferty made it two wins in two years, emerging victorious as Bourne Leisure’s Champion Chef
After three fascinating finals in previous years, the winners of Bourne Leisure and Travel Weekly’s annual cooking competition came together for a final Champion Chef showdown to find the best of the best.
The Champion Chef final took place at Warner Leisure Hotels’ Bodelwyddan Castle Hotel, which will host the Travel Brit Awards in July.
In addition to being crowned Champion Chef, the winner will get to oversee their winning meal being cooked for guests at the Travel Brits’ gala dinner and also received a culinary experience for two at the Raymond Blanc Cookery School.
The three finalists were Matt Griffiths of Chelmsford Star Co-operative, and Fiona Rafferty and Rachel Holland-Pemble, both of Thomas Cook.
Louise Tansey, national sales manager for Bourne Leisure, judged the finalists’ dishes alongside Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley and Bodelwyddan Castle head chef Bob Hughes.
Tansey said: “This year, Bourne Leisure’s Champion Chef event was the biggest yet. We saw three of our previous winners battle it out for the ultimate crown and they produced some amazing dishes and the food served was of an incredibly high standard.
“It was wonderful to welcome back Rachel, Matt and Fiona; the dishes were delicious and showcased their culinary talent. It was a tough competition to judge and we want to congratulate all three contestants on the superb and extremely tasty dishes they created.
“It’s a shame we can have only one champion, but the winning dish on the day was Fiona’s garlic and thyme roasted chicken. It was beautifully presented and I can’t wait to try it again at the upcoming Travel Brit Awards.’
Hughes added: “This year is the first time I’ve been involved in the Bourne Leisure Agent Champion Chef event, and having heard such great things about the standard of the dishes produced, I was blown away by the talent of our three contestants.
“Each showed amazing skill in the kitchen; they took on our culinary skills test with ease and their dishes were more than impressive.
“As difficult as it was to choose just one dish, Fiona’s garlic and thyme roasted chicken shone through and we were delighted to crown her our champion of champions. I have no doubt that the dish will be well received at the Travel Brit Awards and I know my team are looking forward to recreating it.”
And the winner is… Fiona Rafferty, Thomas Cook
“I was delighted to be invited back to cook again this year; it was so special knowing that this was the last year of the competition and I would be competing against past winners. There was a lovely sense of camaraderie among Matt, Rachel and I, which added to how wonderful the whole experience was.
Since winning last year I have continued to cook regularly, but instead of following recipes I have now progressed to designing my own dishes and combinations. After receiving such positive feedback from my dish last year I gained the confidence to cook instinctively and trust my judgement.
As the winning dish is being served at the Travel Brit Awards again this year, I decided that a roast chicken dinner epitomises a great British meal. I elevated my British-inspired dish to the next level so it would look great, taste delicious and retain all the elements that you would expect from a Sunday roast.
I was overwhelmed to win again, especially as the standard of the other two dishes was so high. Matt’s beef was superb and his celeriac purée was like silk. Rachel made her own flaky pastry from scratch and her hollandaise sauce was divine.
I am really looking forward to attending the awards, and especially to catching up over a drink or two with Matt and Rachel.”
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