There was sweat and smiles when the finalists in our SuperChef competition did battle in the kitchen. Features editor SIMON TOFT was there.
The 41-year-old was the unanimous choice of judges following a keenly-contested cook-off with three other finalists at Restaurant 27 in Southsea.
Each was given the same box of ingredients and Jason’s winning dish was duck with rhubarb sauce and seasonal vegetables.
The insurance claims assistant from Adair Road, Southsea, held aloft his trophy and said: ‘I’m quite amazed. I thought I would be out of my depth, to be honest. A couple of evening cookery courses is the only experience I’ve had, but I enjoy cooking and a friend of mine said that if I didn’t enter the competition then he would enter on my behalf.’
Half joking, he added: ‘Today SuperChef, tomorrow MasterChef!’
As well as the prestigious title, Jason picked up a selection of great prizes including:
n A meal for two plus wine at Restaurant 27
n A one-to-one cooking course with chef patron Kevin Bingham
n A crown lamb roast plus butchery demonstration by Buckwells of Southsea
n A voucher worth £50 to spend at Johnson’s Enterprises in Old Portsmouth
n A selection of fine wines worth at least £50 from Broadmarsh Wines in Southsea
Originally we were looking for three people to battle it out for the title. But the standard among the 12 semi-finalists was so high that the judges decided to put four through to the final this week.
We’d teamed up with top Southsea eaterie Restaurant 27 to search for our very own SuperChef – and Restaurant 27’s chef patron Kevin was delighted with how it went.
He said: ‘Everybody has had a great time and they should all be very proud of what they’ve achieved.’ Jason and the other finalists – navy clearance diver Jimmy Bond, 39, from Highland Street, Southsea, 56-year-old NHS information analyst Colin Burton, of Captains Row, Old Portsmouth and Celina Mann, 32, a receptionist of King Street, Southsea - had got to the final by cooking dishes of their choice that they felt confident with. But for the final they didn’t even know what ingredients they would be working with until they each opened up their boxes in the restaurant. Then, in the style of TV programmes such as Ready, Steady Cook and MasterChef, they had a total of 90 minutes to think what they would prepare and then cook their dishes for the waiting panel of judges.
They included Kevin, his sous chef Dominic Gower, News food critic and ex-restaurateur Carol Godsmark, Russell Paine of Broadmarsh Wines and Simon Toft, features editor of The News.
Carol said: ‘At the start there was clearly a lot of thinking going on. When the ingredients were revealed, there was a sort of stunned silence. It was a case of ‘’what do I do now?’’.’
Kevin added: ‘In the semi-final they were in their comfort zone, but this wasn’t so familiar.’
As the judges waited, the finalists got busy in the kitchen at their own stations, each eyeing up what the others were doing. With the cookers on and the quartet at work, it was a hive of industry. Soon it was time to stop and present their dishes to the judges. After a careful tasting and long deliberations, the title of SuperChef went to Jason.
Kevin, 42, who had a wealth of experience at Michelin-starred restaurants such as Manleys in Storrington and The Horn of Plenty in Tavistock before opening Restaurant 27 in 2009, supported the SuperChef competition as part of his dream to see Portsmouth become known as the ‘foodie capital of the south of England’.
He said he was impressed by what was produced in the final.
‘By choosing four finalists rather than three, I knew we would have a high standard of cooking and they’ve certainly not disappointed. The use of seasoning was particularly good and they all had a nice lightness of touch.’
He added: ‘What we’ve been presented with is very impressive.’
Russell said: ‘It’s been a big challenge for them and I don’t think they should underestimate how well they’ve done.’
So would any of them be giving up their day jobs to become chefs, or run a restaurant? Jimmy thought of the stress involved and smiled: ‘I defuse bombs for a living – I think I’ll stick to that.’