Fat Duck chef Oli reaches semis of Roux competition
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When he's not serving up egg and bacon ice-cream to hungry punters at The Fat Duck, Oli Williamson is dreaming up exciting recipes of his own.
Now the Maida Vale chef is through to the semi-final of a prestigious competition set up in 1984 by the legendary Roux Brothers - with £12,000 and experience in a three star Michelin restaurant up for grabs.
To reach the semis of The Roux Scholarship, Oli had to cost and design a dish based around cockles and leeks.
"They want to see you using all the fish with no waste so I used the trim to make a mousse with Alsace bacon to stuff into the leek, and the bones to make my sauce," he says.
On September 9, he will have to cook it live for Alain Roux, three Michelin star chef Clare Smyth, and Michel Roux Jnr as well as conjuring a dessert from a mystery box of ingredients with just 30 minutes thinking time.
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"I had wanted to enter for some time because they are great prizes including all expenses paid three months of work experience in top restaurants around the world," he says. "The ex scholarship winners from the past would be a great family to be part of."
Oli travels daily from Sutherland Avenue to the Berkshire village of Bray to work in Heston Blumenthal's award-winning restaurant.
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"The Fat Duck is incredible, it's great to be there for the 25th anniversary when the menus are changing five times a year with all the amazing dishes they have ever done."
He oversees the 'breakfast dessert' including parsnip cereal and parsnip milk, and Blumenthal's signature dish which involves injecting eggshells with bacon ice-cream then cooking it at the table with liquid nitrogen.
"I came here 12 years ago to eat and it is one of my favourite food memories of all time so to be cooking it is huge nostalgia for me."
Managing 'the pass' at the Fat Duck to oversee orders will stand him in good stead for the pressure of going up against 17 other semi-finalists.
"They may throw you a curve ball on the day, it will be nerve wracking, but you rely on the skills you have picked up. Running the service there is a lot of pressure with a million things going on at once, but I am quite composed and patient."
If he gets down to the final six, he will have to produce a showpiece at Westminster Kingsway College on October 25.
Ultimately Oli whose passion is "grilling over wood and charcoal," dreams of owning his own place, but he adds: "It would be incredible but a lot of things would have to fall into place before it happens."