Winter 2008 - Reaching the top

12/04/2013 11:04
Stockpot talks to Simon Hulstone about his latest win, what it took to become the Knorr National Chef of the Year and his future plans.

This was your fourth attempt at the Knorr National Chef of the Year title. What was your strategy this time around?
I went into the competition totally focused. I took two days off beforehand and just rested. I didn't have anyone around me and when the box was shown I dealt with it on my own and didn't allow other influences from other people to creep in. I stuck to my guns and did what I felt comfortable with.

What did you think of the mystery basket when you saw it? Did any of the ingredients give you concern?
The box was OK. I wasn't expecting it to be easy but it was hard to get four dishes out of the box. Three leapt out at me instantly and I stuck with them but the fourth was more taxing, and it was hard to find the ingredients I needed without repeating them in other courses.

Who was your mentor for the event? Did anyone in particular give you advice that made a difference?
Knowing most of the judges beforehand was hard because they know what I'm capable of and know how much this award means to me. Leading up to the event I spoke to numerous chefs and they all came back with the same advice: Cook with what you are comfortable with and what you do every day at work. There are too many people to mention when it comes to my mentoring but they all know what part they played in my success.

What does winning the contest mean to you?
It is the result of eight hard years' work. The competition has been in my blood since I was a child and my father competed and reached the final. From then on I worked under Michael Kitts in Bristol who hosted a dinner for the then chef of the year, Lou Jones. I assisted him in his preparation and then watched chef Kitts compete in the year David Everitt Matthias won.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of competing in the 2010 event?
Go into the competition to win but don't expect it to fall in your lap. The competition is hard and anyone can get it on the day. Simple, clean food full of flavour. Don't try things you are not sure about.

Has winning the title made any impact on your plans for Bocuse d'Or in January? Have you decided what you will be creating and presenting?
The Bocuse d'Or is massive for me, and going into the competition as national champion means a lot. I don't believe the British candidate should be anyone but the best so winning this contest has given me a major boost. I haven't decided what I'm doing yet but I have a lot of ideas and meetings coming up. I need as much support from the industry as possible as I'd like to get the best possible placing for a UK competitor. January will be an exciting month.

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