04:45AM, Sunday 13 July 2014
A talented young chef from Maidenhead who narrowly missed out on winning a national competition says the experience has helped to fuel his ambition.
Craig Johnston, a sous chef at Boulters Riverside Bar and Brasserie in Boulters Lock Island, competed in the Chef Stagiare Awards 2014 which drew more than 60 entries.
After impressing in the first two rounds, which entailed drafting a menu plan as well as a placement at Michelin starred L'Ortolan in Reading, he selected to compete in the final two.
This required the former Furze Platt Secondary School pupil to work five days at Heston Blumenthal's restaurant Dinner in London.
Long hours and the commute meant Craig, from Cookham Road, averaged about three hours sleep a night during the placement but says the experience was well worth the exhaustion.
"It is another level of cooking, everything is bang on and precise every day," said the 19-year-old.
On Friday, June 20, the final showdown saw Craig and fellow finalist – and eventual winner Emily Greenough - cook a three-course menu judged by executive head chef of The Fat Duck Group Ashley Palmer Watts.
The prize was an all expenses paid trip to work at top restaurants in both San Francisco and Oman.
Craig was offered a permanent job at Dinner, although declined because he isn't ready to move to London yet.
"Ashley made me realise I want to step up and keep on pushing,” he said.
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