For years, fennel pollen has been praised as one of the best spices that can be used in a recipe. Taken from the fennel herb, this seasoning is a favored ingredient of both professional chefs and home cooks. Now, those who have been wondering if they should buy fennel pollen have yet another reason to add this item to their shopping lists: it was recently used in one of the dishes that won chef Andrew Tabberner the Junior Chef of Wales award.
The 22-year old chef, who works as the current chef de partie at Coast Restaurant in Saundersfoot, was crowned the new Junior Chef of Wales at the Welsh International Culinary Championships this week. Held at Coleg Llandrillo, a university in Rhos-on-Sea, Wales, the competition ended in a close final between some of the country’s youngest professional chefs.
Assisted by his Michelin star head chef Will Holland, who acted as his commis chef, Tabberner served a starter of Welsh sea bass carpaccio, yogurt and cauliflower pannacotta, sweet dill emulsion, fennel dressing, pickled cauliflower and sea bass crackling with the famous fennel pollen. He then followed with a main course of a Welsh pork tasting plate: smoked bacon-rolled tenderloin, braised neck, stuffed cabbage and crispy ear, served with cider fondant potato, savoy cabbage, apple jelly and cider reduction. For dessert, he created a poached forced rhubarb, white chocolate and vanilla cheesecake with a ginger biscuit base, champagne jelly, white chocolate tuille and rhubarb puree.
In addition to the honor of being named the best young chef in Wales, Tabberner also won an all-expenses paid trip to the Junior Forum, held at the World Association of Chef’s Societies Congress in Athens, Greece in May 2016. Tabberner will represent Wales at the event. Upon receiving his award, he thanked the team at Coast Restaurant, his familly, and his girlfriend, Maisie Warner, with whom he shares a home in Conwy.
Despite his youth, Tabberner’s success and interesting combinations of ingredients have drawn interest around the world, especially in light of his recent achievement.
The Junior Chef competition featured four finalists, two from South Wales and two from North Wales, who were each given three hours to cook a three-course meal for four people. The other participants included Vivienne Read, 20, a commis chef at Celtic Manor Resort in Newport; Sam Ricketts, 20, a chef de partie at Signatures Restaurant in Conwy; and Arron Tye, 20, a demi chef de partie at Shared Olive in Hawarden.
The judging panel included several prominent Welsh culinary figures, such as Colin Gray, the president of the Culinary Association of Wales; chairman John Retallick; and Michelin star chef Shaun Hill, of the Walnut Tree Inn in Abergavenny.
Each of the finalists brought some truly impressive offerings to the table: Read’s dessert offering was a chocolate soil, carmelized pineapple, coconut sorbet, chocolate sponge and glazed black cherries. However, she found a tough competitor in Tye’s hot chocolate fondant with lemon curd ice cream, triple chocolate brownie, blood oranges and blueberries. Meanwhile, Ricketts was a favorite for the main course due to his pork tenderloin wrapped in black pudding mousse with crisp cheek bonbon, cured pork belly, sticky red cabbage, ponch maip, leak and potato pressing, and wild mushroom and Madeira cream. However, when all of the categories were considered, Tabberner came out on top.