A junior sous chef at Eton College beat hundreds of chefs from across the UK and Ireland to win the Sodexo Chef of the Year 2014.

Louisa May Matthews saw off fierce competition from nine other regional finalists to scoop the top prize after a 90-minute live cook off held at Hotelympia, the UK’s largest exhibition for the foodservice and hospitality industry, on Wednesday (30 April).

Cyrus Todiwala OBE was among the panel of top chefs who judged the finalists’ three-course meals, choosing Louisa’s as the standout entry.

Louisa’s winning menu was a starter of hake, lobster claw, parsley and bisque cream reduction, a main course of buttermilk poached loin of pork puffed skin, press potato, green vegetables with Knorr herb butter and beef stock reduction, and a dessert of chocolate tart with raspberry, honeycomb, orange syrup and orange ripple ice cream.

Louisa started working for Sodexo three years ago, and her commitment to delivering high standards every day has seen her promoted three times in as many years. Last year Louisa’s talent saw her both represent the UK at WorldSkills in Leipzig and take the Rising Star Craft prize in Sodexo UK and Ireland’s annual Star Awards.

Louisa wins a fantastic prize of work experience with Alyn Williams at Michelin star restaurant The Westbury and a study trip to France.

Runner up Tom Beauchamp from Sodexo Prestige in Scotland and third placed Lloyd Walker from Sodexo Corporate Services will also go on the France trip, which will include visits to the champagne vineyards, Paris markets, dinner at some of the French capital’s top restaurants and a visit to Le Nôtre cookery school.

Also at Hotelympia, the Sodexo culinary team collected a silver medal in La Parade des Chefs, the working restaurant competition. Working in glass-enclosed kitchens each day, two teams battle it out on each day, preparing and cooking lunch for 100 paid-for covers.

David Mulcahy, Sodexo craft and food development director and organiser of the Sodexo Chef of the Year competition, said: “Louisa performed fantastically well and is a highly deserving winner. To perform the way she did in a very challenging competition environment, and at one of the most prestigious culinary events in the UK, is testament not only to her vast talent, but also to the support she has been able to call upon during the competition.

“I’d like to thank all the judges, competitors, their families and mentors for giving the contest the high standards and atmosphere it deserves. I’d also like to thank Unilever, Churchill and Leathams, without their support it wouldn’t be possible to hold such a great competition.

“Many congratulations also go to our culinary team for picking up the silver medal in La Parade des Chefs. All our competitors are great ambassadors for Sodexo and the industry.”

Louisa May Matthews, Sodexo Chef of the Year winner, said: “It’s absolutely amazing to win, and it was really unexpected as I only arrived half an hour before because of traffic. I was a bit flustered at the start but once I got into the 90 minutes I really enjoyed the pressure because it gives me drive, and then it was nice to stand back at the end to see that I’d achieved what I wanted to achieve.”

The 10 Sodexo Chef of the Year finalists

  • Louisa May Matthews, Sodexo Education – first place with gold medal

  • Tom Beauchamp, Sodexo Prestige (Scotland) – second place with silver medal

  • Lloyd Walker, Sodexo Corporate Services – third place with bronze medal

  • Danillo Barbagallo, Bateaux London, Sodexo Prestige – bronze medal

  • Adam Collison, Sodexo Corporate Services – bronze medal

  • Kirsty Crerar, Sodexo Healthcare – bronze medal

  • David Hussey, Sodexo Education – bronze medal

  • Dennis McCarroll, Sodexo Corporate Services (Ireland) – bronze medal

  • Stuart Burt, Sodexo Corporate Services – certificate of merit

  • Andy Clarkson, Sodexo Defence – certificate of merit

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