Robin Devonshire talks about winning 2018's Chef of the Year and all things food
With Autumn just around the corner, it’s a chef’s favourite season.
More traditional, homely produce becomes available and in peak quality: Think apple and blackberry crumble with enough custard to sink a ship, brussel sprouts - because a sprout is not just for Christmas – and, of course, the great Sunday roast that I would have any day of the week as long as it has honey-roast parsnips!
It was also last autumn when I found myself competing in our Chef of the Year competition in Birmingham in a closely-fought final.
The day was preceded by a group meal of all the finalists, where we were all awarded our Chef of the Year jackets, that I treasure still. As you can imagine, having nine chefs in one place means that the camaraderie and banter was intense, with everyone trying to get an insight into each other’s dishes.
On the day it was a quick breakfast - I limited myself to only two visits to the all-you-can-eat buffet as I needed to be on form. The day went in a blur as it was so busy and exciting at the same time. We also had Tom Shepherd who is the Michelin-starred chef from Adams in Birmingham who had agreed to judge, so no pressure there then!
My name wasn’t announced for the second and third places - and much to my relief, my name was read out and I had my reward: A set of global chef’s knives and the trophy in the grip of my hand.
The buzz from the event is amazing and good luck to this year’s finalists on Thursday 5 September. They are:
- Alan Bulmer – Palmersdene
- Bethany Taylor– Ferendune Court
- Connor Sackers – Heyberry House
- Emma Mardy – Lightbowne Hall
- Jamal Batioui – Limegrove
- Nathan Hateley – Bloomfield Court
- Neil Furniss – Heathervale
- Philip Cartmel– Kimberley Court
And, most importantly about the Chef of the Year, we get to trial recipes with our residents - making it a fully-involved experience, creating talking points and memories along the way.
This ties in nicely with Anchor Hanover’s search for as many recipes as possible from our customers – across both care and housing - so we can create an Anchor Hanover Recipe Book to be professionally-produced and sold in our locations.
We hope to seek out the family recipes that our residents have in their memories - as getting it down on paper keeps the recipe and its story alive forever. All family favourites come with a memory and a story, and most of our care homes will trip over these little gems while doing the tasting sessions for the autumn/winter menus that are well under way.
The talking points food can create is a goldmine of information and a window into people’s history and future. I will always look fondly on the memory of my mother cooking a big pot of stew in a huge stock pot, with us five hungry sons covered in mud from a rugby game gathered round to have it ladled into willow pattern bowls and mopped up with crusty bread - just writing this I can see the windows all steamed up and smell the rich broth with whole onions bobbing around!
As you can see, if you get me going on food it snowballs a bit!
After three-and-a-half years as Chef Manager at Clayburn Court, I was successful in becoming part of the Service Improvement Team. The job is thoroughly enjoyable as it involves anything under the roof of our care homes and helping those homes to strive to improve all of the time.
Our main project is Inspire- a structure for excelling within the home. The beauty of it is that anyone can put ideas forward and work on them through to fruition. This is a game-changer, as we can all take ownership of the ideas we have to improve the daily lives of our residents.
Inspire certainly gives plenty of food for thought.