Chef reaches prestigious final

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A young chef from Rye has reached the UK final of the S. Pellegrino Young Chef Academy competition.

This international bi-annual contest which aims to push the boundaries of gastronomy has a grand finale in Milan in 2023 and is judged by some of the biggest names in the industry.

Marcus Clayton, currently junior sous chef at Hide & Fox in Saltwood, near Hythe, was brought up in Rye from the age of five. He studied at Rye College before working at the Cock Inn, Peasmarsh, then moved on to the Mermaid Inn where he worked with chef Ben Fisher.

Donna Starkey, careers lead at Rye College remembers Marcus; “We’re always so delighted to see where our student’s career paths take them. Marcus’ passion for food was very clear during his time with us at Rye College and we are so thrilled and proud to hear of his culinary achievements. Good luck Marcus for next month’s competition. We would love for Marcus to come back into school to talk to our students about his success.”

Mermaid Inn proprietor Judith Blincow, said: “We are thrilled to hear that one of the previous members of our ‘Kitchen Brigade’ has reached this prestigious final. We wish him all the best and look forward to seeing him going to the grand finale in Milan.”

A move to The Small Holding in Kilndown, Kent, developed his passion for foraging and local produce-led cooking, something that has figured large in his culinary creations ever since.

Further career moves to Thackeray’s in Tunbridge Wells and then to the award-winning Curlew in Bodiam where he worked with chefs Will Devlin and Matt Broadbent, encouraged his creative senses. He told Rye News: “The Curlew was the first place I was given the freedom to experiment and express myself in my cooking.”

The 26-year-old joins a shortlist of ten of the most promising chefs in the UK under the age of 30 for the London final. Speaking of the challenge he says: “It’s a perfect opportunity for me to showcase my skills and keep improving. There are some pretty heavyweight judges and it doesn’t matter what the result is, I’m still going to learn a lot and it’s a great chance to challenge and better myself.”

And a dish to impress international judges with?

“Slat baked celeriac brushed with an apple and celeriac ponzu, rolled in ash made from the waste, a baked apple puree, oyster and shitake mushrooms, celery compote, celeriac and apple pickle, lovage oil and a celeriac and apple mushroom sauce, finished with a bit of truffle.”

A dish to savour

And on the side? “A pomme dauphine made with traditional choux pastry and mashed potato, but to reduce waste I swapped the mash with a salt baked celeriac trim. With a hot apple centre topped with a cheese espuma and fresh truffle.”

He added: “This was the first dish I was planning to do for a pop-up about three years ago, which never actually happened. It shows my style to push vegetables forward. It’s completely vegetarian and the sauce is super meaty. It looks quite simple but every little detail serves to enhance the flavours of each component.”

He’s quick to credit help too. “My best mate, Jordan Lacey, works at Sweet Williams of Rye, and he’s been helping me source all my ingredients. One day, I’d like to have a vegetable-led restaurant. And I’d really love for it to be in Rye.”

Four young chefs will leave the UK final next month with an appointment in Milan in 2023. Wouldn’t it be delicious if not too long afterwards, a new restaurant opens in Rye with a young, talented, and award-winning chef heading it up?

Image Credits: Marcus Clayton .

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