On the afternoon of November 15th 2018, at Nestlé’s Gatwick HQ building, Aramark Defence Services presented its very first Chef of the Year award to Diego Mayoral, Senior Sous Chef at St James’s Palace Officers’ Mess. Diego had already impressed the judges with his written submission and at the South East and London regional “cook off” heats where he beat other short listed chefs to secure one of three sought after places in the national final.
On 15th, Diego and his fellow competitors had to prepare, cook and serve a two course fine dining menu for two people in under three hours. Diego’s autumn themed menu was inspired by the flavours of his home Basque region. For his main course, he presented breast of pigeon in a red wine jus with chestnut and chocolate purée, a confit pigeon leg and potato croquette, heritage baby carrots, chanterelle mushrooms and Madeira jelly.
“Pigeon is an ideal game meat for this season, “ says Diego “and the strong flavours in the red wine jus are elevated by the chocolate and chestnut purée. Crunchy heritage carrots add contrast to the dish and I have added chanterelle mushrooms which would feature heavily on the tables of my home town at this time of year.”
“After the rich, intense flavours of the main course, I wanted to create a fresher, lighter dessert based on the well-loved exotic flavours of coconut and mango. I covered my hollow chocolate sphere with flaked coconut and filled it with a light coconut and rum mousse with a hint of fresh mango then presented it with almond praline for crunch and refreshing lime jelly.”
The competition was fierce and the judges had a hard time deciding who should win the Side by Side Chef of the Year 2018 trophy but in the end, Diego was their unanimous decision. “Like many ambitious young chefs, Diego has already clocked up some pretty impressive employers!” said Mark Webber, ADS’s Culinary Director. “He has learnt his craft in, amongst other places, Galvin Restaurant, London, the one Michelin star Alameda Restaurant in his native Basque country and Roca Moo in Moo Hotel Barcelona, another Michelin star establishment, part of the Roca dynasty and supported by the famous three Michelin star El Celler de Can Roca Restaurant in Girona.
He and his fellow chefs at St James’s Palace are helping to establish ADS as a serious name in the world of fine dining and hospitality in the defence sector and in London and we are excited to see just how far his obvious talent and potential can develop…..perhaps our very own Michelin star?”
Like many chefs, Diego says that he was inspired by the “Chef’s Chef”, Anthony Bourdain’s book, “Kitchen Confidential” and himself enjoys recruiting, training and developing his team. “My proudest moments in the last 12 months have been preparing and serving food for the MPs and the Royal Family who regularly attend functions at the Palace. My team and I work hard but I try and make the most of being in London by going to exhibitions, musicals and out for drinks. Like all chefs I love everything to do with food- last week, for example, I went to Taste of London in Tobacco Dock. It’s always good to look for new ideas.”
You can see more of Diego’s work on his Instagram page: Chef_diegomayoral