A pick of the Borders’ best young cooking talents faced a meat and fish skills test in the latest stage of the Scottish Borders Junior Chef Challenge this week.
Six competing chefs were at the County Hotel in Selkirk on Tuesday to watch expert butchery and fish filleting demonstrations, and then showed off the skills they had learnt for the instructors to judge.
First to demonstrate was Selkirk’s Gordon Newlands, an assessor at Scottish Meat Training, who teaches all butchers’ apprentices in southern Scotland. “I’ll be teaching the chefs how to bone a lamb gigot,” he said, “then how to seam it, which means cutting along the natural seams into the three major muscles, topside, silverside and knuckle, and finally how to trim excess fat and gristle.
“It’s very important chefs learn butchery,” said the former Selkirk butcher, “because if they can buy a whole lamb carcass and cut it into joints themselves, they’ll yield a better profit for their business.”
The second instructor was Robbie Bunton, head chef at the Woll Restaurant and Bar on the New Woll Estate at Ashkirk, and former owner of the Courthouse Restaurant in Selkirk’s Market Place. He showed the chefs how to gut, debone, fillet and skin different species of fish caught off Scotland’s coast. “I want to see them taking as much meat off the bone as they can, and leaving a clean fillet,” he advised.
The competitors in this stage of the Scottish Borders Junior Chef Challenge were: Donna Colvine of the Lauderdale Hotel in Lauder; Susan Kay of the Lodge, Carfraemill, Lauder; Jamie King of the Tontine Hotel, Peebles; Laura Burrell of the Buccleuch Arms, St Boswells; Matthew Smith of the Horseshoe Inn, Eddleston; and William Cox of the Marshall Meadows Hotel, Berwick.
Mr Newlands said: “My congratulations must go to the young chefs, who bravely attempted a very difficult task. They did excellently – very good for seeing the demonstration only once. My apprentices are only expected to butcher a lamb leg to this to standard after a year.
“It’s very hard to cut a gigot of lamb: there are so many seams in it, but the chefs hit every one. If they can master butchery and put that on their CV before going for a chef job, it’ll be a big tick for them. With this display of our young chefs today, I firmly believe that the future is bright for our hotels and caterers in the Borders and beyond. First class attitude! Well done.”
Organiser Will Haegeland of Selkirk’s County Hotel added: “I would like to thank the instructors for their help in making this task such a great and challenging experience for all the contestants. I am sure they took a lot of new knowledge and skills from it and will not find it so daunting to attempt working with raw, unprepared produce from now on. That is exactly the aim of the competition: to challenge, inspire and develop the junior talents taking part, and they helped that brilliantly today.”