January 2015

Young Chef’s Award: A Winner’s Experience!

From Keelin Tobin, recipient of the 2014 Friends of the Oxford Symposium Young Chef’s Grant:
“The Oxford Symposium – ’tis a weekend not to be missed! It was a great honour for me to have been awarded the 2014 Young Chef Award. This award offers an assisted place at the weekend, in addition to the chance to work behind-the-scenes alongside established visiting chefs.

“At the Symposium last July, I was lucky enough to cook alongside Danish Chef Trine Hanemann and her sister Silla, creating a Nordic banquet for the Saturday evening. On the Sunday I was in the kitchen with Performance Artist Joseph Peppe Patricio and Eve Hemingway of Apples and Pears Supper Club in London. As food waste is a topic I hold dear, I was delighted that Sunday’s lunch combined use of the leftovers from the weekend with ritual and performance, as well as some tongue-in-cheek humour. Head Chef Tim Kelsey of St Catherine’s College, Oxford and his team of chefs were remarkably accommodating in this act of faith. They dealt with the weekend-long invasion of their kitchen with professionalism and good cheer.

“As you can imagine, I was heady with excitement to be able to work in the kitchen at such an event. This is a wonderful opportunity for any emerging chef! Meals, presentations and other events take place in a convivial atmosphere and recipients of the Young Chef Award are free to attend lectures, paper-presentations and other events over the weekend.

“The 2014 theme was Food and Markets, and for me, a particular highlight was The Jane Grigson Memorial Lecture given by Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School describing her experience setting up a farmers’ market in Middleton, Co. Cork. Other lectures I had the chance to attend included a presentation from Erica Peters on Markets, Gender, and Translation in Turn-of-the Twentieth-Century San Francisco and Southern Vietnam. I attended sessions presented by Doug Douda and Dan Strehl, both speaking about farmers’ markets in The U.S. Doug dealt with factors that account for the recent explosion in the popularity of farmers’ markets in the U.S., Dan introduced me to the term ‘agricultural arts’ – grown stuff. With a wide range of speakers and topics, other lectures touched on subjects such as policy, literature, organic farming, economics, and street food.

“Though the Symposium has seriousness at its core, the evenings provide a chance for more casual fun and games. The food-themed karaoke and Name-that-Street Food game were enjoyed by many. A number of books were launched over the course of the weekend, including Beyond Bratwurst: A History of Food in Germany by Ursula Heinzelmann, Tom Jaine’s new edition of The Oxford Companion to Food, and The Cultivation of Taste: Chefs and the Organization of Fine Dining by Christel Lane.

“For anyone with an interest in food, be it academic, practical or otherwise, attendance at the Symposium cannot be too highly recommended. I hope that, like so many of the other attendees, I will be a repeat participant.”