Meet the winners of our Maldon masterclass competition.
Last month we teamed up with Maldon Salt to host a fantastic masterclass at London’s iconic Fortnum and Mason, hosted by Michelin chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen and our own Ravneet Gill. The room was full of foodies and chef friends held in rapt attention by the stories, the insights and the incredible technique and dishes being created – and none more rapt than the front row, filled with six up-and-coming chefs – the lucky winners of our competition. Here we are spotlighting Megan and Jack’s stories, to give a little insight into why we chose them from the deluge of applicants.
Megan Rae is the sole chef of her parents’ Stables Café, on the edge of Brent’s Gladstone Park. Jack Hutchinson is Chef de Partie at Angela Hartnett’s Cafe Murano.
MEGAN: My parents own a small café. When they struggled to find a chef I decided to take the reins myself. I hadn’t received any formal training; what I did have was fierce determination, an understanding that standards somehow had to be maintained and a real commitment to doing the best I could.
I love working with my hands and cheffing is such a sensory experience. It’s magical taking a few raw ingredients and watching how they can turn into something that can feed a crowd and hopefully spark some joy. There is so much to learn – its enthralling.
JACK: I first got into food through my family, spending countless hours in the kitchen as a child. It just spoke to me. I loved the smells and flavours, as well as being able to get my hands and face dirty in the process. My favourite dish to cook is a super simple orecchiette with tomato sauce topped with parmigiano reggiano because it reminds me of the time I spent in my family kitchen growing up – it’s my idea of heaven.
MEGAN: Everything is so fast paced and high tech these days…working in a kitchen is quite the opposite. It keeps me in tune with the seasons, it keeps me interacting with others, keeps me moving and allows me to express some of my personality through what I produce. I love having the freedom to create and to do my best to surpass peoples expectations. You can always improve, always learn more and develop and I’m determined to do just that.
But it can be hard to find the time to immerse myself in as much research/development as I’d like. When you are kept busy with the day to day running of things, quite often recipe development will need to be put on hold. It’s vital to me that I keep learning, but it can be hard to set aside time to dedicate to this without distraction. Time seems to pass so quickly and I’ll often find myself forgoing the pop up I’d love to attend, or chef residency that I’d like to support. I have so many ideas I’d like to roll out and so many others who work in the industry that I’d love to meet. The weeks never seem quite long enough.
One of the biggest joys has been meeting so many incredible people. My team are more like family than colleagues which is very special. We all support each other through our happiest and most challenging times. It’s unique and really very precious. I’ve taken great joy from how as a team we’ve navigated successfully through some challenging times (covid being one). Similarly I’ve established a great report with many of our regulars. We have some truly wonderful customers. It’s a special community.
JACK: By far the biggest challenges I’ve had to overcome came at my old workplace, Hill and Szrok, where I’d have to do service by myself. That was so intense, it taught me a lot about the mental challenge of being a chef. But also some of my biggest joys came from there too – I got to do things I never thought I could, such as doing 50+ covers on my own. That was a massive achievement for me at a stage when I struggled to believe in myself.
I love the fluidity and flow state you get into during a busy service. It’s like meditation to me, I get a real high out of it.
MEGAN: Rav has inspired me in so many ways. For starters she is one of the kindest and most genuine people I have had the good fortune of meeting within the industry. Somehow she always remembers my face and always checks in with how I’m getting on at work…I don’t know how she does it. She’s inspired me to be braver in the kitchen. She is such a force – and her energy is infectious! The Countertalk platform she has created is an incredible resource that’s constantly evolving. It’s introduced me to so many wonderful people, provided me with so much support in multiple ways and is a constant reminder that we are all part of a truly special scene.
Lisa is equally incredible. Her Obsession dinners are hugely inspirational. Watching how all of these exceptionally talented chefs come together to create such a memorable experience is enchanting. I don’t know how she manages to curate it all. She’s a constant reminder to me that with the right team, passion and focus…so much is possible. It’s inspiring to hear her talk so passionately about supporting emerging chefs and investing time in your team. She makes me even more determined to create more, push forward and develop.
JACK: My culinary inspirations are Marco Pierre White and Anthony Bourdain. These chefs helped people to understand food and created a genuine culture around food, they also knew the secret to a good meal was never just about the food – it’s about the people who you share that food with, whilst also telling you to explore and experiment with different flavours. One thing we all have in common as people is our love of food.
MEGAN: It was incredible being given the opportunity to learn and watch both Rav and Lisa in action. It felt such a privilege. The dishes were beautiful and absolutely delicious, the whole event felt like a celebration of wonderful produce and passion. Their willingness to share their knowledge was wonderful. I left feeling inspired and felt privileged to have been a part of it.
I was already a huge Maldon fan but I learnt plenty more about how to utilise their new range. Perhaps the most valuable takeaway was just leaving feeling so inspired. At times, cheffing can feel so intense and so fast paced; this session forced me to stop, slow down and celebrate being part of the wonderful community that Countertalk has created. It was a reminder that there are so many wonderful people working in the industry that are happy to share their knowledge. I left feeling excited, encouraged and determined.
JACK: I loved it when Lisa talked about experimenting and designing dishes, it really spoke to me. She really emphasised not being afraid to try new things and explore new flavours as it’s the new generation of chefs’ time to develop and create beautiful food; to continue the wonderful food culture that already exists and help it grow further.