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Meet the Sheffield semi-finalist: Scott Fairweather, head chef at The Black Swan

Scott Fairweather is familiar with many of the chefs he’s up against in the Sheffield semi-final of National Chef of the Year but is looking forward to competing against them and showing our expert judges his own culinary style. We learnt more about his style of cooking when we chatted to him ahead of the event.

Tell us how you first heard about the competition and what attracted you to enter?

I first heard about the competition by supporting members of my kitchen team through the Young National Chef of the Year competition. For the past eight years, I have mentored somebody to varying stages, the most notable being my previous sous chef, Arthur Bridgeman Quinn. This year, the brief attracted me to enter myself, as I thought I could tailor the entry to suit my style of cooking.

Where were you when you first discovered you had made it into the National Chef of the Year semi-finals? 

I heard about the semi-final achievement through a text message from a friend saying ‘congrats mate’. At the time I was too busy at work setting up the pastry section to even acknowledge what it meant; however, it didn’t take me long to question it and find out through Twitter!

How did you celebrate your achievement?

I think it was just a very normal evening to be honest, a busy service, couple of beers and bed! I’ve not been reading too much into it really, I’m just looking forward to the chance of cooking competitively and being judged by chefs that I look up to and respect. Maybe if I reach the final, I’ll no doubt make plans to celebrate properly!

How are you preparing for the next stage of the competition?

I’m quite chilled about the whole thing although I’m sure that will change a few days before judgement day. Since the announcement, I’ve been on holiday for a week to Madrid, relaxed with family and friends, supported the boys through the European cup final win and sadly returned to work. Reality has smacked me in the face and I’m now running on ‘auto-pilot’ to make sure I’m ready and raring to go for the semis.

Who has been your biggest inspiration in your career so far?

I’ve been lucky enough to work both ‘with’ and ‘for’ some great people. My old boss Richard Rose at The Punch Bowl at Crosthwaite really fast tracked my career by handing me the opportunity to be a head chef at just 21. This really taught me the truths about business and the importance of consistency. My previous restaurant manager, Lorraine Stanton, taught me about service, quality and management. And my current boss, Louise Dinnes at The Black Swan, has allowed me to fully express myself and progress my cooking style, whilst having fun and showcasing my personality through food. Me and Louise have a huge level of respect and trust for each other and because of this, I treat her business as if it were my own. 

Which part of the menu are you most looking forward to serving up and what was your inspiration for this dish?

I’m most looking forward to serving my ‘hot egg’ starter in the semi-finals. It’s the most controversial dish as I’ve never seen a take on a traditional ‘Scotch egg’ feature in a competition of this stature. However, I’ve developed it over seven years on my menu and I’m ready to take a gamble. This dish defines me as a chef so let’s just hope I can execute it properly and do it justice on the day.

How will you feel if your name is called out as a finalist?

I imagine I will feel slightly sick, slightly relieved and extremely excited to battle it out in the finals. I know some of the guys from Cumbria in my heat already, they’re not your average chefs, some have done the competition before. I’m just taking one step at a time and hoping I can hold my own against them.

Tell us something that followers of the competition may not already know about you.

When starting out as a chef at the age of 15, I picked things up ridiculously quickly, however there was one ingredient I just couldn’t get my head around…fried, scrambled, poached, boiled, coddled, sunny side up, sunny side down, they all just looked the bloody same. Quite fitting really with this year’s starter brief!

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