Steven Doherty, Gordon Ramsay Scholar organiser

23 November 2006 by
Steven Doherty, Gordon Ramsay Scholar organiser

Steven Doherty has organised the Gordon Ramsay Scholar competition since its inception in 2000. He talks to Emily Manson about this year's finals, which are being held at the BBC Good Food Show today (23 November)

Why are competitions important?

Because they help young people build their confidence by giving them another level of experience that pushes them to their limits. The winners get noticed and windows of opportunity are opened.

How will the live cook-off at the BBC Good Food Show spice up proceedings?

It will give it another edge, and on the day it'll be the person who can focus on the cooking and not be distracted by what's going on around them that'll get through.

Any hints what their tasks will be?

We will keep the tasks simple and straightforward to allow their natural cooking ability to come through. There are a couple of Ramsay classics and a couple of classical dishes. We're not trying to catch people out; if they know how to cook, they'll be fine.

What's the best dish you've seen during the competition?

Definitely Tristan Welsh's winning dish three years ago - baked fillet of sturgeon on squash purée with apple and caviar. It was absolutely mind-blowing: so simple, yet absolute perfection on the plate.

What are the judges looking for?

It's not necessarily the best chef on paper who will win. It's how they execute dishes on the day - the ones who keep their heads and use the ingredients cleverly and to the best of their ability.

There's a lot of talk of a skills crisis in the industry. What's the solution?

If we catch them young at school, it makes a huge difference. A lot of young people get taken by it at that stage, and we need to focus on converting that into people taking jobs in the industry. The sector also needs to clean up its act as, despite making massive strides, there are still certain players who continue to condone poor working conditions, and that doesn't do the industry any favours. Colleges and industry also need to work more closely together.

Ramsay has been criticised as a bully in the kitchen. Is he a bad role model?

People realise it's a media image. There's a fine divide between strict discipline and bullying. Bullying clearly shouldn't be tolerated, but the fact that Gordon's chefs have all been with him as long as they have is testament to the fact he doesn't cross the line.

the best way to run a kitchen?

Selecting the right key people, not promoting them out of their depth, and having a strong management structure in place.

You used to be called "Bulldog", why?

Because I was tenacious when I was running a three-Michelin-starred kitchen. But these days I'm more like a big old labrador who just growls now and again.

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