Peter Jackson, Executive Chef at the Armada Hotel, Spanish Point, Co. Clare, was crowned the overall winner of the inaugural Cono Sur Chef Challenge final held at the Pallas Foods Foodservice Centre in Co. Dublin.

 

It was a close-run contest however, with judges locked in discussions for over half an hour and the recipes finally only separated by a hair’s breadth.

 

But it was Peter’s dish of Atlantic cod with summer peas, saffron and mint accompanied by black pudding and air-dried Connemara ham that wowed the judges thanks to its perfect balance of flavours, sensitive use of ingredients and precision cooking.

 

The herbal notes of the dish were finely judged and paired magnificently with the 20 Barrels Sauvignon Blanc, while the cod fillet was creamy, supple and cooked to perfection

 

There was no place to hide as the contestants were under the full glare of the judges. Pictured here is Richard McKee in full flow.

 

In runner-up position was Richard McKee of Redcastle Hotel in Donegal, whose breast of Gressingham Duck recipe impressed with its complex accompaniments of smoked artichoke and fermented garlic, as well as an innovative raspberry & hibiscus gel that interestingly used Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir as its base. The flavours were intense and multi-layered, and its pairing with the 20 Barrels Pinot Noir highlighted the wine’s savoury, red fruit-tinged aromas spectacularly.

 

Last but not least was Alan Fitzmaurice of The Glasshouse Hotel in Sligo. His stuffed loin of rabbit was wrapped in Parma ham was served with broad bean purée, carrot, pickled mushroom, burnt onion, and a beetroot crisp and played on the more delicate flavours of the Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir that it was paired with.

 

Peter Jackson won a first class trip for two to Paris for a gourmet weekend away, and all finalists each received a large hamper of gourmet Pallas Foods products and Cono Sur 20 Barrels wines for their efforts.

 

The formidable panel of judges charged with the difficult task of choosing the winner included:

  • – Adolfo Hurtado, General Manager & Chief Winemaker at Cono Sur
  • – Patrick Clement, Business Development & Events Manager for Pallas Foods
  • – Leslie Williams, Food & Wine Writer at The Irish Examiner
  • – Sinéad Delahunty, Blogger & Irish Finalist of the 2015 Cono Sur Blogger Challenge

 

The final – which took place at the Pallas Foods Foodservice Centre in Co. Dublin – involved an intense “cook-off” where each participant had only an hour to prepare, cook and present 4 servings of their dish under the watchful glare of the judges at all times.

 

Competitors weren’t judged on the recipes alone however: the chefs were also scored on their real-time performance in the kitchen, including knife skills, preparation, technique & execution, timing & workflow, presentation, and much more.

 

And, of course, all recipes were assessed with one essential criterion in mind: they needed to complement Cono Sur’s ultra-premium 20 Barrels Sauvignon Blanc or 20 Barrels Pinot Noir, so that both the dish and wine would be enhanced by the pairing.

 


 

 

THE RECIPES THAT MADE THE FINAL

Winner

Peter Jackson, Armada Hotel

Atlantic cod with summer peas, Bonina black pudding, air-dried Connemara ham, saffron, mint

 

Runner-Up

Richard McKee, Redcastle Hotel

Breast of Gressingham Duck with smoked artichoke, fermented garlic, raspberry & hibiscus gel, roasted hazelnut

 

Runner-Up

Alan Fitzmaurice, The Glasshouse Hotel

Stuffed Loin of Rabbit, broad bean purée, carrot, pickled mushroom, burnt onion, beetroot Crisp

 


 

 

The Cono Sur Chef Challenge began in April when all chefs in the Republic of Ireland were invited to submit an original recipe that complemented the prestigious 20 Barrels wine range from Cono Sur.

 

An impressive 30 submissions were received with 6 entries chosen to compete in a close-fought semi final from which the 3 finalists were chosen.

 

Speaking about the competition, Michael Foley, Marketing Director at Findlater Wine & Spirit Group, said “We were delighted to partner with Pallas Foods for this fantastic competition. Pallas put enormous emphasis on customer relations and satisfaction, values we also share at Findlater Wine & Spirit Group, and their deep involvement with this challenge helped make it the great success it was.”

 

Patrick Clement of Pallas Foods added, “This was an excellent finale for the inaugural Cono Sur Chef Challenge. We had three great dishes, each fantastically presented and full of flavour, and the three finalists demonstrated a high standard of cooking throughout the competition. We would like to extend our congratulations to this year’s winner, Peter Jackson, and we’d also like to thank Alan and Richard for their excellent contribution to this memorable day.”

 

Finally, commenting on the judging process, Leslie Williams said that, “The standard of cooking and presentation from all three finalists was exceptional, and we had a very difficult time choosing the winner. However we really loved how the pea shoots and herbal elements in Peter’s dish picked up on those same flavours in the Cono Sur 20 Barrels Sauvignon Blanc, which really fulfilled the brief of finding a recipe to showcase the characteristics of the wines. When that was combined with the perfectly-cooked cod and overall freshness of the dish, we knew we found our winner.”