Chef hopes to serve up a winner at competition

Chef Mathew Smith can’t wait to fly the Welsh flag when he competes at the IKA Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart next week.

 Matthew Smith competing for Wales at the IKA Culinary Olympics.
Matthew Smith competing for Wales at the IKA Culinary Olympics.

The 36-year-old chef, who runs Star Chef Catering in Newtown, made his debut as a Wales squad member at the Culinary Team Wales at the Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg two years ago. This time, he will be one of the six chefs from the Senior Culinary Team Wales who will be competing in the Restaurant of Nations, one of two elements of the competition.

With Will Richards, a hospitality training officer with Cambrian Training, he forms the pastry section of the team. The team is led by Nick Davies, culinary craft trainer with Cambrian Training, who combines the roles of team manager and member whilst Sergio Cinotti, from the award-winning Gemelli and Gem42 Restaurants, Newport, takes over the captaincy for the first time.

At the IKA Culinary Olympics, which run from February 14-19, Wales’ senior and junior teams will join around 2,000 chefs and pastry chefs from more than 60 countries.

The senior team’s competition is divided into two elements - Restaurant of Nations and chef’s edible buffet. The team presents its chef’s edible buffet on February 16 and its Restaurant of Nations menu for 110 covers on February 18.

“We have been training for a year and I think everybody in the team will step up to the plate at the Culinary Olympics,” said Matthew. “Our manager Nick knows better than anyone what is required in the competition, having competed there four times before.

“I am looking forward to it because it’s the biggest achievement a chef can possibly have in their career. I went to a private school with Jonny Wilkinson and to say I have represented my country like him is a great honour.

“Although I was born in Ipswich, I still call myself Welsh as my family moved to Wales when I was five. It means everything to represent Wales and to have the country’s flag on my chef’s jacket.”

Matthew, who is married with a nine-year-old daughter, has been running Star Chef Catering for four years and credits his late grandmother with sparking his interest in cooking when she ran a pub, restaurant and bakery in Axminister, Devon.

He worked for 18 months in France before returning to Wales to become commis chef at the Elephant and Castle Hotel, Newtown before joining Neil Roberts at the town’s Waggon and Horses pub and restaurant. During their eight years together, Roberts won the National Chef of Wales competition and Matthew won the Welsh Skills Competition.

Matthew then moved to head chef roles in Aberystwyth and Montgomery before opening Patisserie 13 in Newtown and then moving to Hawkstone Park Hotel, Shrewsbury for two years.

His Welsh teammates are Dylan Wyn Owens, Manchester City Football Club’s executive chef, Mark Robertson from Coleg Cambria, Wrexham, Jay Humphris from Coleg y Cymoedd and Zak Pegg from The Harbourmaster Hotel, Aberaeron. Logistics manager is Peter Fuchs, culinary director of The Celtic Collection and ICC Wales, Newport.

Culinary Team Wales is sponsored by the Welsh Government’s Food and Drink Wales, Cambrian Training Company, Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Castell Howell Foods, Hybu Cig Cymru and Harlech Foods.

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