16 days ago
Salon Culinaire Best in Show winner Phil Clark admitted to being ‘over the moon’ after he bounced back brilliantly from a bad performance in last year’s event to come out top in 2017.
Phil, who is the second chef in the Infantry Officers Mess at Warminster Garrison, took Gold and Best in Class in the Innovative Street Food Challenge, after cooking the same dish that went ‘horribly wrong’ the year before. He was stunned to then be named as Best in Live competition and overall Best in Show at the event, held at Ascot Racecourse on 27 September.
Phil’s Asian fish dumplings with braised rice and pak choi hit the right note this time, and the judges not only commended the quality of his dish, but also praised his technique, composure and time management.
“I knew the dish was a good one but I didn’t do it justice last year and it took me a while to get over that,” said Phil. “This year I was really motivated and a lot more confident. I tweaked and changed the dish and practiced it four times.”
Despite being in the right frame of mind, Phil didn’t have his sights set higher than a bronze or silver. “I was happy with the dish, my plates were identical and I tasted it as I went along,” he said. “But I was still shocked – going from nothing to gold was amazing, and I did feel really emotional. Then when they called me back to the stage as Best in Show I couldn’t believe it. I actually had my coat on ready to go home! I’m still trying to get my head around it.”
Phil, 27, began his Sodexo career after leaving Kingdown School at 16, joining as a trainee chef at the local Warminster Garrison, where he is now second chef. He lives a half an hour walk away and has been in the town for 16 years with his family, after his father retired there from the Army.
“I left the company a couple of times and worked in restaurants and pubs in Warminster, including six months as a junior sous chef at The Weymouth Arms and six months as head chef at The Old Bell,” said Phil.
“I was keen to get some commercial experience and learn from a range of different chefs, but I came back to Sodexo in November 2016 and this is where I’ll stay. I like the fact that you can take part in competitions like Salon.”
Phil is one of a team of five chefs who provide a cook-to-order breakfast, lunch and dinner service for up to 100 covers every day in the Infantry Officers Mess. In total the team took home two gold, two silver, eight bronze and eight merit awards from this year’s competition.
Services manager Mick Wilson says they are all on a high. “What Phil has achieved is off the scale. He was very composed on the day and used all the allocated time, plating his dish with three seconds to spare. Although he was competing against a strong team of experienced chefs, I think his attitude and technique really stood out to the judges on the day. Everything he did was on point. We’re all blown away by his success.”
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