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EVERYTHING has turned to gold for Stuart Phillips over the past few weeks after finding the winning recipe in the heat of competition. The 32-year-old Warwick Conferences chef claimed his second Gold medal when he was named Conference Centre Chef of the Year 2004 after coming out on top in a keenly contested challenge in Coventry. That followed on from his success in the Conference Centres of Excellence Chef of the Year competition held at Hotelympia at Excel in London in February where he first fulfilled his ambition of winning a Gold medal.

Stuart, the Senior Chef dePartie from Scarman Training and Conference Centre at Warwick Conferences, had been so close to achieving glory on a number of other occasions in the past, winning bronze and silver medals in the same Chefs’ Challenge competition in which he achieved this latest triumph. He emerged from a record entry of chefs to claim the top prize, with representatives from 24 centres starting out in the Challenge run by the Conference Centres of Excellence in conjunction with the International Association of Conference Centres and 12 going through to the final at Henley College.

Once again, the standard of competition was exceptionally high, but it was Stuart who impressed the panel of judges most of all. He prepared pan-fried pike with roasted leeks, canon of lamb with mint pesto and apricot chutney, and dark chocolate parfait. At the Awards Dinner held at Warwick Conferences’ Scarman Training and Conference Centre, Stuart won the category for Best Main Course and then found himself back up on stage to collect the coveted top prize.

“It’s certainly been a golden few weeks for me,” said Stuart, who trained at Henley College, the scene of his triumph. “After getting so close to winning Gold medals on a number of occasions before, you begin to wonder if your luck will change, but I think I have grown more accustomed to competing in these competitions. It’s only in the past four years since I came to Scarman that I’ve taken part in competitions like this, and when I first took part in them, I was incredibly nervous to the point where I would be shaking. You are under a lot of pressure with the judge keeping a close eye on you, but I feel more relaxed in that situation now and that is probably the reason I’ve won in the face of such strong competition.” He added: “This challenge gets stronger each year and all the chefs produced some wonderful dishes on this occasion.”

As Brian Healy, Director of Training and Conference Centres at Warwick Conferences and Chairman of the Chefs’ Challenge, commented: “The task of picking out the winners gets tougher each year for the judges. Not only did we have a record number of entries this time, the standards were even higher and everyone deserved recognition.”

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