Welsh national culinary team manager Graham Tinsley certainly believes in testing his talented chefs against the world’s best.
Switzerland and Finland, two of the biggest names on the world culinary scene, are heading to North Wales later this month for the annual Battle for the Dragon contest, staged at the Welsh International Culinary Championships at Coleg Llandrillo Cymru, Rhos on Sea from February 22-24.
Each team is challenged to cook a three-course meal for 80 people under the watchful eyes of a panel of experienced international judges. Finland will cook a main course using Welsh Lamb on Tuesday, February 22, the Welsh National Culinary Team will cook Welsh Pork on Wednesday and Switzerland will use Welsh Beef in their main course on Thursday. The winning team receives a specially commissioned Dragon Trophy.
The three luncheons have been sold out since the turn of the year, as North Wales foodies quickly snapped up the rare opportunity to dine out with world class chefs.
“Without doubt, the standard of our cooking will need to be exceptional if we are to beat Finland and Switzerland,” said Tinsley, executive chef at Carden Park Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa near Chester and a director of the Castle Hotel, Conwy. “These are two of the world’s top culinary teams and I am expecting them to set a very high standard.”
The Welsh team, which won gold and silver medals at the Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg last November and a silver medal in the Parade de Chefs at Hospitality 2011 last month, are keen to regain the ‘Battle’ trophy, which has also been won previously by Scotland, Germany, Sweden and New Zealand.
Standing in their way will be an experienced Swiss team and a new Finland team, members of which have an average age of 25.
The Swiss team comprises: captain Kilian Michlig, Daniel Gehriger, Fernando Michlig, Kilian Meichtry, Christof Nienstedt and pastry chefs Norbet Schwery and Mario Inderschmitten.
“The team has never been to Wales before and we look forward to the challenge and certainly the interesting conversations with other teams,” said Kilian Michlig. “The Swiss team appreciates the opportunity to coo with Welsh Beef, which we know is famous for its quality.”
He said numerous world champion awards and Olympic titles over the past 20 years demonstrate the quality and passion of Switzerland’s cooks.
“Only teams who prove their skills with outstanding creativity, taste, expert knowledge and highest possible standards are good enough to officially bear the Swiss flag in international competition,” he added.
“Maximum of effort has been put in by all, with between 500 to 600 hours of training, trial sessions and exhibitions invested by each and every team member in the past year. We have a world-famous name to defend, so it’s worth every possible effort.”
Finland have chosen the Battle as the first competition for its new culinary team, comprising seven men and three young women, which was selected last August. The youngest member is 22 and the oldest 32.
The competing chefs are: captain Sami Huhtanen, Tapio Saarinen, Risto Tepponen, Toni Kostian, Juhani Hiltunen and. Kira Weckman.
“We've been practising for four months,” said team manager Tapio Laine. “We eat and work together two weekends and six days a month and the motivation is very good.
“We are a young team and its great to be coming to Wales for the first time. It’s a big experience for the team, to learn, to have their eyes opened, to get to know their colleagues and to see beautiful Wales. We will see if the Lion from Finland can battle the Welsh Dragon and the Swiss.”
The Welsh International Culinary Championships are organised by the Welsh Culinary Association and sponsored by the Welsh Assembly Government and Hybu Cig Cymru/ Meat Promotion Wales.
Open to the public free of charge, the championships include the popular Junior Chef of Wales Final, a new Cake Cymru show for sugarcraft and cake decorating competitors and a wide range of competitions for chefs and waiting staff. For more information visit www.welshculinaryassociation.com.
Throughout the event, web users will have access to live and archived video footage covering both the Battle of the Dragon and the other culinary competitions. There will also be up to the minute updates from Twitter and images of the whole event at www.llandrillo.ac.uk/chefwales