July 2021

Elaine Mahon, recipient of one of the first Young Chef Grants, is organising a new venture, The Young Chefs Collective

Here’s what she says:

“The idea of establishing an OFS Young Chefs Collective was born out of a discussion at the Symposium in 2020 among past recipients of the Young Chef’s Grant. Awarded competitively, the grant (numbers vary from year to year) was first established in 2009 as an annual award-scheme under the guidance of Trustee William Rubel with the aim of offering young culinary professionals an opportunity to explore what the Symposium has to offer (the picture above is of him with the 2019 grant recipients). 

Since 2009, thirty-three Young Chefs have had the experience of cooking and preparing food or creating and inspiring recipes and menus for their fellow Symposiasts under the mentorship of one of our invited Chefs – among them Fergus Henderson, Olia Hercules, Jeremy Lee – by joining Head Chef Tim Kelsey in his kitchen at St Catz in Oxford to prepare our Friday dinner, as well as devise Sunday lunch, mentored by an OFS artist or speaker. For the rest of the Weekend, recipients of the Grant are free to attend the Symposium, taking the opportunity to listen to speakers, discuss the year’s papers with their presenters and contribute to discussions. 

And yet, after an experience our Young Chefs agree was of great importance to their professional lives, there was no mechanism in place to maintain a connection between recipients of the Award and the Symposium. Surely these young professionals had something special to contribute to an annual gathering whose main purpose is to provide a discussion forum for all those interested in food and food-history?  When we tracked down past recipients of the grant and met online, the overarching theme which emerged was that attending the Symposium had been a pivotal experience which, for many, had influenced their career paths. The aim of the new venture is to increase our understanding that food is much more than what’s served on the plate.”

As a result of these preliminary explorations, a decision was taken to set up a Young Chefs Collective under Elaine’s leadership with the express aim of providing a virtual space that allows the Symposium to maintain connection with – and also between – previous recipients.  

This year’s recipients of our Young Chef Grants took inspiration from the work of artist-craftswoman Gönül Paksoy to prepare this year’s virtual Sunday lunch.

Gaurish Shyam says: “My dish, “Siddu Re-imagined, takes inspiration from the “Timeless Simplicity” approach of Gönül Paksoy and a traditional Northern Himalayan bread. Siddu is traditionally a steamed, leavened bread which is filled with a paste of roasted poppy and jaggery. Here, the bread part has been swapped by figs. So, it is a bread reimagined.”

Cordula Peters says:  “Gönül Paksoy’s observations on form, texture, and smell influenced the creation of this dish. My cold summer soup plays on the juxtaposition of different textures as well as that of sweet and savoury.”

Shannon Compton says: “Taking inspiration from Gönül’s edible jewelry, this piece honors the artistic qualities and physical beauty of two highly important crops of my home state of New Jersey: blueberries (the NJ state fruit) and sweetcorn, for which NJ is famous.”

Caitríona Nic Philibín says: “A glimpse of Gönül Paksoy’s work with her reflections on culture, nature and landscape made me think about the richness of my own cultural inheritance and inspired me to focus on the deep roots of Irish food traditions.”

Andiswa Mqedlana says: “Gönül Paksoy’s work in fashion, has greatly inspired my recipe. Her use of textiles, color choice, fabric…her work embodies life and the cycle of life. My recipe is written in parts to emphasise my interpretation of a fashion garment: that “it takes different parts to fully complete each ‘piece’.” So I created my trio of cauliflower starters to reflect the influence Gönül has had on the fashion industry, and also to highlight her dismay at food-waste by my use of a single ingredient in three different ways.”

Jake Tilson’s gorgeous 2021 menus in printable form are downloadable free by this year’s Symposiasts from the Swag bag on The Fringe.

The Grants are awarded competitively each year with decisions taken by a small committee headed by Trustees Elaine Mahon and Harold McGee (click here for how to apply).