A talented young chef from House of Commons has been crowned Wing Yip Oriental Cookery Young Chef of the Year 2018.
Conor Bird, 22, battled it out against 7 other finalists from across the UK in a competitive cook-off at University College Birmingham (UCB) on Wednesday 28 March and the winners of this year’s 1st – 4th place, were announced at an official awards dinner.
Conor has not only been awarded the 2018 title but has also won a once in a lifetime trip to Hong Kong where he will be given the unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience at the city’s leading Michelin-starred restaurants.
Putting Conor through his paces was a panel of expert judges – President of the British Culinary Federation Peter Griffiths MBE, Michelin starred Chef Glynn Purnell and MasterChef finalist and Woky Ko founder, Larkin Cen.
To secure a place in the final, competitors were required to submit a written entry of an authentic Oriental main course recipe of their choice, including serving suggestions. Judges were looking for creativity, good use of flavours and restaurant standard serving. Eight young chefs were invited to compete in the final cookoff, where they were asked to prepare and present a set starter, selected by Larkin Cen – beef tartare with shallot ponzu and nashi pear. They then cooked and presented their Oriental main course of choice.
Conor impressed the judges with a good balance of flavours in his version of Larkin’s recipe. His main course of apple and miso glazed duck breast with honey heritage carrots, red cabbage puree, pak choi, sweet plum jus and miso dust, also stood out in terms of flavour and presentation.
Peter Griffiths said: “This year was incredibly tough for the contestants as we incorporated a set-starter course component, which really tested the culinary skill of the competitors.”
“Culinary competitions such as this one are so important for the development of our chefs of the future, not only so that they can meet other talented chefs and share experiences but also so that they can obtain useful feedback, hints, tips and advice from the judging panel and mentors.
“Every single finalist did a fantastic job and should be incredibly proud of their achievement, in fact, this year it was the hardest year for the judges as the standard was so high, which is why we all agreed to award fourth place, for the first time.”
Conor said: “It doesn’t happen often, but I’m speechless. I really did not expect this and cannot believe I have won! The competition presented lots of challenges, but I am elated all the hard work which I put into preparing for the tasks has paid off. The judges were brilliant and offered some excellent tips along the way – an experience I will take away with me and utilise on the trip. I cannot wait!”
Director Brian Yip, who oversaw the competition, added: “The Young Chef competition is something which is very close to our hearts – we’re extremely passionate about championing aspiring young chefs from all over the country, and the competition offers an amazing platform for anyone who’s passionate about cooking, whether that’s Oriental or in other cuisines.”
Oriental Cookery Young Chef of the Year 2018 – Conor Bird, House of Commons
2nd Place – Drew Morris, University College Birmingham
3rd Place – Elyse Baxter, House of Commons
4th Place – Billy Jones, Saunton Sands Hotel, Devon