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Welsh Chefs 2008

FOOD in Wales has come a long way since the days when cafes in some tourist areas used to close for lunch.

Meat and two veg or chicken and chips no longer passes muster. Even the traditional Sunday pub lunch can involve a plethora of choices on the specials board as well as the trusted favourites.

Restaurant customers now expect culinary surprises, a menu bursting with tempting descriptions, and beautifully presented dishes.

The popularity of television cookery shows is one factor in that change. Another is the prominence of celebrity chefs such as Heston Blumenthal who are never afraid to experiment with flavours. The enormous array of produce available as standard in our supermarkets encourages us to be more adventurous with our home cooking, and we expect professional chefs to be at least one step ahead.

This is great for Wales. The key to meeting these rising expectations is the quality of ingredients, and the rule of thumb is that the less an ingredient has travelled, the fresher it is and the better its flavour.

We may not be able to match the Mediterranean for certain fresh fruits and seafoods, but Welsh meat is second to none, as are the shellfish from our coastal waters. Our nation is also getting better at capitalising on our edible raw materials, with small companies producing world-class cheeses, sausages, sea salt, pate, cakes and drinks among others too numerous to list here.

The organisers of the National Chef of Wales 2008 competition are therefore to be applauded for setting the contestants at yesterdays semi-finals the task of cooking anything provided it included some winners of previous Taste of Wales awards.

That underlined the importance of using Welsh products wherever possible, and the potential they offer for delicious dishes.

We have the ingredients in Wales. Our challenge now is to drive up the quality of our restaurants and hotels to meet and surpass visitors expectations. That does not mean simply getting a few more flagship restaurants in the Michelin guide. It means raising standards across the board so people get a consistently satisfying experience whether they eat in a modern establishment in Cardiff Bay, in a cosy village bistro or in the dining room of a large hotel.

The Welsh Culinary Association is doing sterling work to this end, raising the profile of cooking as a rewarding career option.

Its National Chef of Wales competition is held every other year, alternating with the Junior Chef of Wales. These events give our chefs something to aim for, and even those who do not win the title will gain invaluable experience.

Tourism and farming are two of our most important sectors. The catering industry, which brings them together, will deliver great economic benefits if it can help Wales to exceed visitors expectations.


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Tags: Catering Jobs , Chef Jobs Wales , Chefs Jobs , Recruitment & Employment , Welsh Chefs

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