Young Chef Young Waiter 2020: Meet The Finalists
22 December 2020
Last week, we announced the finalists for Young Chef Young Waiter UK and China / South East Asia competition were announced for 2020. The sixteen UK finalists and nine China / South East Asia finalists were chosen by our UK Head Chef Judge Theo Randall, UK Head Waiter Judge Simon King and Chairwoman of China / South East Asia Judges Ching He Huang.
Young Chef Young Waiter UK
Finalists for Best Young Chef of the Year are:
Alexandra Henderson The Lansdowne Club
Ali Halbert Hencote, The View
Freya Popham Restaurant Associates, Societe Generale
Lewis Glaister Scott’s
Liam Smith The Gleneagles Hotel
Masudi Nestor Pene Claude Bosi at Bibendum
Peter Meechan Gleneagles Hotel
Valère Ruiz 14 Hills
Finalists for Best Young Waiter of the Year are:
Cristina Daniela Gaucho
Declan Wilkins The Hand and Flowers
Florian David The Waterside Inn
George Smart The Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa
Hellie Honney The Gleneagles Hotel
Martin McRae The Gleneagles Hotel
Remy Baben Wild Honey St James
Ruhit Abdul Hide Restaurant
Young Chef Young Waiter China / South East Asia
Finalists for Best Young Chef of the Year are:
Qing lee Chen Imperial Treasure
Tibor Palasti The Sushi Bar Harrods
Maurine Lordios Kai Mayfair
Kevin Hoang Lu Ban
Finalists for Best Young Waiter of the Year are:
Sabrina Aquilina Ting Restaurant & Lounge, Shangri-la Hotel
Julien Peigneux Ting Restaurant & Lounge, Shangri-la Hotel
Marie Bouquet Shangri-La Hotel
Simone Rizzo Ting Restaurant & Lounge, Shangri-la Hotel
Iris Buchner A Wong Restaurant
We’ve asked some of our finalists a few short questions to get to know them a little better.
Young Chef Young Waiter UK – Finalists for Best Young Chef of the Year
Name: Lewis Glaister
Place of work: Scott’s restaurant Mayfair
A short quote on what it means to be a finalist of Young Chef Young Waiter: I am delighted to be in the YCYW finals for a second year in a row. Last year was a great experience and although this time round will be a little different, I am still super excited to compete.
Top three things that make me happy: Making people smile with my food, good coffee, a good service where everything goes well and there is a good flow.
Who is my hero and why? My dad is the guy I look up to, he’s not in the industry, but he’s always worked very hard and that always inspired me to do the same growing up.
What is my favourite food/cuisine? I love eating food with spice, mainly fresh spices, so probably food from south east Asia.
What is my favourite restaurant? Favourite restaurant – a little Indian restaurant near my mum and dads home in Manchester. It isn’t the most glamorous, but there is nowhere I look forward to visiting more when I am back at home.
What is your favourite food memory? This has to be when travelling in Thailand, riding round on scooters and finding random little places that were serving the best Pad Thai or Tom Yum soups. Also the markets selling anything you could think of, those are amazing food memories for me.
Name: Liam Smith
Place of work: Gleneagles hotel
A short quote on what it means to be a finalist of Young Chef Young Waiter: I am very proud to be a finalist of young chef young waiter 2020. The opportunity to test myself and show how far I have come since I first started in the hospitality industry is something I relish. Reaching the final is a great honour and I cannot wait to get started.
Top three things that make me happy: I enjoy reading a lot. I find it is a good way to clear my head and unwind after a busy shift. Living in a rural area means there are plenty of areas of natural beauty to explore nearby, I especially enjoy getting up early and going walking in the hills to get some fresh air. Spending time with my family and all being together makes me happy, it is something I am looking forward to being able to do again soon.
Who is my hero and why? The first job I had in hospitality when I was younger was in a pub kitchen, my boss at the time was a man called Andy, he invested a lot of time in me and pushed me in the right direction when I did not know what I wanted to do with myself. I would not be where I am today without him.
What is my favourite food/cuisine? My favourite style of cuisine, at the moment, is Japanese food. I think it is amazing the skill and precision the chefs who prepare it demonstrate. It is something I would like to learn more about. I would love to travel to Japan in the future to find out more about the food culture out there. We are also very lucky in Scotland to be surrounded by some of the world’s best produce, from scallops and lobster to venison and grouse. We have an abundance of great food on our doorstep and I would like to explore it all in the future.
What is my favourite restaurant? My favourite restaurant is Restaurant Andrew Fairlie. I recently dined there for my birthday. The food was fantastic, and the front of house staff were extremely attentive and made us feel at home. I love the way the dishes used different flavours and techniques to create amazing combinations. The whole experience was brilliant. I look forward to eating there again soon.
What is your favourite food memory? My favourite food memory would be the first time I visited Paris. I was amazed by the great food all around.There are so many places to eat, restaurants, bakeries, cafes etc. I remember eating from a small restaurant with my girlfriend. It was very casual, but the food was amazing. Just Sitting outside watching the world go by. I had a fantastic time. The highlight of the trip was when we dined at Restaurant Auguste, a Michelin star restaurant on the rue de Bourgogne. I had a dish with chicken and octopus for my main course. The flavours were out of this world. The experience really opened me up to what you can achieve in cooking.
Name: Peter Meechan
Place of work: The Gleneagles Hotel
A short quote on what it means to be a finalist of Young Chef Young Waiter: It is a great honour to make it to the final of Young Chef Young Waiter, as one of the country’s most prestigious competitions I am very proud to make it this far and to have a chance at the competing against other young chefs. I feel it is a great achievement to make the final.
Top three things that make me happy: I am a very keen fisherman, I love the time it gives me to unwind after a hard week at work. I love cooking whether at work or at home you will always find me in the kitchen. The thing that makes me happy though, is spending time with my family. Just catching up with my siblings It is really important to me.
Who is my hero and why? If I had to choose a food hero it would be Andrew Fairlie. Andrew’s commitment to Scottish produce has inspired me a great deal. He was the only chef in Scotland with two Michelin stars and his legacy continues to inspire young chefs. I like the way that he ran his kitchen with a great deal of calmness and respect for all his chefs. I have been fortunate enough to make the final of the Andrew Fairlie Scholarship 2019 and I am hopeful to do the same this year.
What is my favourite food/cuisine? In Scotland we are surrounded by great produce so it’s difficult to pick a favourite food, I really like cooking and eating game. It’s an area I want to focus on over the next year or so to expand my knowledge of game birds and the best way of cooking and serving them. I am also working closely with the Indian chefs in the Dormy kitchen at the moment. I love the way spices are balanced to create great flavours. Also the way the meat is marinated before cooking in the tandoor oven. It completely changes into tender pieces with big flavours.
What is my favourite restaurant? My favourite restaurant would be Restaurant Martin Wishart in Edinburgh. I have eaten there many times and it is consistently outstanding food. The style is high end fine dining using Scotland’s best produce and cooked with a lot of French technique. I think he is the benchmark for Scottish fine dining. After eating there, I am always inspired to go back to my kitchen and try to repeat this level of consistency. The front of house staff make you feel very comfortable and know their menus very well, they can always help when you’re not sure about what to order.
What is your favourite food memory? The first time I ate in a Michelin starred restaurant. It was The Kitchin in Edinburgh and it blew me away. I had never experienced anything like it before. Not just the food but the service as well. I loved the way each dish was described with a lot of passion and information. I had a sweetbread ravioli as a starter, it I will always be one of my favourite dishes. The food was excellent, but it was the whole experience that made it such a great meal.
Name: Valère Ruiz
Place of work: 14 Hills, D&D, London
A short quote on what it means to be a finalist of Young Chef Young Waiter: I am grateful for this opportunity, I am very excited to challenge myself.
Top three things that make me happy: Travelling, cooking and making people happy discovering my cuisine, music.
Who is my hero and why? My hero in hospitality is Pierre Gagnaire, he is my role model in the industry. He is creative, an excellent business man and has accumulated 16 Michelin Stars for 23 restaurants.
What is my favourite food/cuisine? I love every type of cuisine, I am always happy to discover new dishes, tastes and recipes in my travels.
What is my favourite restaurant? Mirazur, at Menton, France.
What is your favourite food memory? When I went for the first time to a Michelin star restaurant, it was delicious. I still remember the menu and I loved the experience of being a customer.
Young Chef Young Waiter UK – Finalists for Best Young Waiter of the Year
Name: Florian David
Place of work: The Waterside Inn, Bray
A short quote on what it means to be a finalist of Young Chef Young Waiter: Being a finalist is of course a wonderful achievement. I am proud to represent the Waterside Inn, as well as all my colleagues who helped and trained me. It is a reward after a complete year on the professional side. I can’t wait to meet young talents and some of the best professionals in the UK.
Top three things that make me happy: Meeting family and friends, spending time at the family farm with my father, discovering new cultures and learning new skills.
Who is my hero and why? I am very proud I had the chance to work with Michel Roux. He is an example for me. I’ve rarely met people who are that charismatic, involved in a company and caring about all his employees. He inspired a lot of people, me included, and he wanted to change the whole fine dining world. I wish I could’ve learnt more from him.
What is my favourite food/cuisine? I’m in love with food in general. I always try new cuisines, new wines. I particularly like sharing with my friends. When we go to a restaurant, we always order lots of dishes to share between all of us, to try everything. I’m French, a meal is not complete without cheese!
What is my favourite restaurant? Les Flocons de Sel in Megève. It is unbelievable how Emmanuel Renaut is close to nature and how he makes his dishes reflect that. This is definitely the spirit I’d like to inject in my own restaurant. The front of house staff is wonderfully managed by his wife, and every guest couldn’t have a warmer welcome.
What is your favourite food memory? My meal at The Fat Duck. I qualify it as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience. I’ve never been that surprised in a restaurant. I was amazed by the capacity of both the front of house team and the kitchen team to personalise each experience. I realised then how happy we can make people in a restaurant.
Name: Hellie Honney
Place of work: Gleneagles Hotel
A short quote on what it means to be a finalist of Young Chef Young Waiter: To be recognised by my manager and to be put forward for the competition was already amazing, but making it to the final is an outstanding feeling, I hope to make the Gleneagles family proud!
Top three things that make me happy: Family, my achievements, friends.
Who is my hero and why? I would say my hero in hospitality is my manager at the clubhouse, Houssem Belabed, Being from Tunisia he came to Scotland with not a great knowledge of English, but with hard work and determination he learnt the language and climbed his way up the ladder at the Gleneagles Hotel. Houssem always knows how to inspire an individual and the team to always try their best and if we do fall he’s there to pick us back up straight away. He treats his team like his family and supports us at work and personally as well, when I one day get to be in the position he is in, I will run the restaurant with his methods and treat the team like he’s always treated us.
What is my favourite food/cuisine? Since my family is half Italian, I would have to say Italian cuisine is definitely my favourite, as it feels like home.
What is my favourite restaurant? Madliena lodge in Malta is my favourite restaurant as it was always the go to family restaurant for special occasions when we moved to Malta in 2010.
What is your favourite food memory? My favourite food memory I would say is trying a gorgeous Thai green curry for the first time in Thailand.
Name: Remy Baben
Place of work: Wild Honey St James
A short quote on what it means to be a finalist of Young Chef Young Waiter: I am absolutely thrilled to be selected as a Young Chef Young Waiter finalist. Being alongside those young talented professionals and being able to develop my skills and my network by sharing a moment with the industry leaders means a lot to me.
Top three things that make me happy: Professional achievements, family time around a tasty dinner and a great bottle of wine, personal improvement.
Who is my hero and why? I always refer to two different individuals in our industry. Diego Masciaga, obviously, ‘the master of service’. To be able to deliver this level of excellence for so many years is very impressive. He is a model of passion and dedication. The second one is Tilman Fertita, there is so much to learn from him on managing and developing a hospitality business. Both of their books are a true inspiration.
What is my favourite food/cuisine? Being born in Nice, Mediterranean cuisine is the only choice. Olive oil over butter.
What is my favourite restaurant? Wild Honey St James aside, I would say The Grill at the Dorchester for the room and the style of cooking, Noble Rot for the Wine List.
What is your favourite food memory? It’s hard to say, but the most recent one would be the beef dish I had at Pollen Street Social right after the first lockdown. A filet from the Lake district, with confit shallots, mushroom tarte fine, truffle and a buttery mashed potato served on the side. I enjoyed it with a glass of St Joseph from François Villard, it was a real treat.
Name: Ruhit Abdul
Place of work: Hide
A short quote on what it means to be a finalist of Young Chef Young Waiter: I’m super duper excited!!
Top three things that make me happy: Travelling around the world, wine and of course my job.
What is my favourite food/cuisine? Octopus is my favourite type of seafood, but also red meat such as steaks or briskets are competing for first place. If I have to choose a type of cuisine for life, it would be Greek.
What is my favourite restaurant? Meraki, cosy greek restaurant in Fitzrovia.
What is your favourite food memory? When I was younger and started to cook for myself sometimes, I remember the first time I made Carbonara and the result wasn’t too bad, still not perfect, but felt so good for making it and enjoyed it a lot.
Young Chef Young Waiter China / South East Asia – Finalists for Best Young Chef of the Year
Name: Qing lee Chen
Place of work: Imperial Treasure
A short quote on what it means to be a finalist of Young Chef Young Waiter: It’s just like a dream for me, I can’t wait to cook with other contestants and bring in front of the judges.
Top three things that make me happy: Cooking food with family, being recognised by guests and learning new skills/techniques in kitchen.
Who is my hero and why? Definitely my head chef – Chef Boon. He has more than 20 years of experience in the kitchen. Which means I have learned a lot from him, not just skills for cooking, but also the attitude of being a real chef.
What is my favourite food/cuisine? A lot. Something crispy like roast duck etc. (Asian)
What is my favourite restaurant? Imperial Treasure.
What is your favourite food memory? Definitely home cooked food like what my grandma used to make for us. That’s unique. It’s hard to describe, but I will still miss it.
Name: Maurine Lordios
Place of work: Kai Mayfair
A short quote on what it means to be a finalist of Young Chef Young Waiter: It always seems impossible until it’s done.
Top three things that make me happy: Travelling, trying new things, cooking.
Who is my hero and why? My hero is my mom because whenever I’m feeling miserable just a phone call or simple talk from her and everything will fall into their right place.
What is my favourite food/cuisine? Filipino food, my comfort food.
What is my favourite restaurant? In our house, home-cooked food with a touch of love.
What is your favourite food memory? Stir fried noodles and sweet and sour chicken because whenever I’ve done something good that needs a celebration, I always end up buying this food and it’s enough for me to feel the warmth of my simple accomplishment.
Name: Tibor Palasti
Place of work: The Sushi Bar, Harrods
A short quote on what it means to be a finalist of Young Chef Young Waiter: It’s an honour to be a finalist of Young Chef Young Waiter 2020 competition. It feels good to know that I have impressed the judges. It means a lot to me I really want to win.
Top three things that make me happy: Winning, achieving my goals and learning new things.
Who is my hero and why? Gordon Ramsay because I have been watching his cooking shows since I was a kid. He knows a lot about food and a great chef. I respect him.
What is my favourite food/cuisine? Japanese Wagyu beef (food) Hungarian / Chinese/ Japanese (cuisine).
What is my favourite restaurant? Amazonico London.
What is your favourite food memory? When me and my family went to Spain for holiday and tried many of the restaurants in Malaga.
Young Chef Young Waiter China / South East Asia – Finalists for Best Young Waiter
Name: Iris Buchner
Place of work: A.Wong Restaurant , Victoria London
A short quote on what it means to be a finalist of Young Chef Young Waiter: It means a lot to have this opportunity to learn and show what skills I have.
Top three things that make me happy: Three things in my life that make me happy are my passion to work and family.
Who is my hero and why? I am lucky that I don’t have only one hero. My personal heroes are my managers, Nathalie Beaufond and Chinorbek Yakshilikov, as they taught me a lot in my workplace but also in my personal life. They will always be a huge part of my life.
What is my favourite food/cuisine? I don’t have a specific favourite cuisine as all cuisines have their specialities.
What is my favourite restaurant? To be honest, I don’t have a favourite restaurant. I am a very open person, so always happy to try something new.