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National Chef of the Year finalist- Tom Westerland

011Thomas Westerland

The National Chef of the Year finalist, Tom Westerland is currently the head chef at Lucknam Park. It was during Secondary School when Tom first became interested in cooking, finding it a subject that he could really shine in. He always enjoyed baking cakes for his family and cooking dinner in the evenings after school.

Once Tom had completed his GCSEs and had finished school, he went on to college to study catering. His first insight into a professional kitchen was working part-time as a kitchen porter in a local pub whilst studying. As soon as he saw the hustle and bustle of a busy service, he knew that it was where he wanted to be.

Tom studied at Cardiff and Vale College and after qualifying worked in a small restaurant near Cardiff called The Fig Tree. He stayed there for three years, a time that proved to be the first pivotal point in his successful career. Under the influence of the restaurant owner and a number of guest chefs, he learnt the importance of sourcing fresh, local and seasonal food and this played a major part in the restaurant gaining a number of Welsh regional and local accolades.

With several years under his belt, Tom wanted to refocus his learning and so decided to move his career in the direction of Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa, under the direction of Hywel Jones. He started as a demi chef de partie and with lots of dedication and hard work moved through the ranks to head chef. During his time there, he has worked both in the two rosette Brasserie and the one Michelin star restaurant.

Tom finds his culinary inspiration from going out and eating the food of other chefs. It’s probably the one thing he enjoys even more than cooking. He thrives on trying new foods and the dishes created by other chefs and believes some of his best menu ideas have been inspired by these culinary explorations.

Tom also gets inspiration from the amazing chefs that he works with, but admits to owing a lot to Hywel Jones, his executive chef at Lucknam Park. He has taught him so much and has encouraged him at every stage of his development, helping to make him the impressive chef he is today. Earlier in the year he was crowned The National Chef of Wales and after winning that it would be an amazing achievement to claim the NCOTY title too. Winning this final would mean everything to Tom and would prove that all the long hours and hard work are worth it. He feels it would mean so much to be listed with such inspirational previous winners, as an ambassador for the industry. He would also like to inspire others to enter in the future.

Thinking back to that date in June, Tom says it’s hard to explain the feeling that he got when they announced his name as a finalist. After being a heat winner last year and one of the first names to be called, the suspense of waiting until the end to hear his name said again was crazy. However, when David Mulcahy announced it he was ecstatic and nothing could have wiped the smile off his face.

The three words Tom would use to describe his style of cooking are fun, flavoursome and simple.

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