"You need to have self belief. I have had some amazing, valuable and priceless feedback from the judges, and that does not happen unless you enter and put yourself out there."
The Bocuse d’Or, is the world’s largest and most prestigious cooking contest and Ruth Hansom, Head Chef of Pomona's on Hereford Road in Notting Hill was the only female chef to make the finals to represent the UK. Women in The Food Industry co-founder, Mecca Ibrahim, spoke to Ruth about the competition behind the scenes at London's busy Olympia Exhibition Centre in a podcast and interview.
Ruth Hansom joined Pomona's as Head chef at the beginning of May 2019. A former winner of Million Dollar Menu, in 2017 she became the first woman to win National Young Chef of the Year. She was also The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Michael Bourdin Scholar in 2016, Ruth now has some ambitious and creative plans for Pomona's restaurant. Before that Women in The Food Industry spoke to Ruth about her experience at the Bocuse d’Or selection.
Ruth competed against the following chefs - Luke Selby, Great British Menu winner 2019 and Roux Scholar 2017-2018 and National Chef of the Year 2017-2018, Robert Sussex National Chef of the Year 2019 semi-finalist and Ian Musgrave, sous chef at The Ritz London and British Culinary Federation Chef of the Year 2018 National Chef of the Year 2017-2018.
In the competition Ruth was cooking against a stellar line up of chefs including the likes of Pierre Koffmann, Simon Rogan, Tom Aikens, John Williams, Simon Hulstone, Ashley Palmer Watts and Brian Turner. She was asked what it was like cooking for the judges and said:
"It's always a bit nerve wracking first off when you see them all, but after about five minutes or so you get what I call "in the zone". But when you're cooking you're running like crazy. It's only before and after that it sinks in who you have been cooking for.
"You have a very strict period of time and window to present your dishes which you can't miss and if you are late at all you get penalised. You also have a commis chef to assist you. The garnishes are also very intricate and almost like a dish in themselves".
When asked about her plans now that the competition is over she said "I'd love to shadow Ian Musgrave from the Ritz (he was announced winner and will now compete for a place in the world final in the European heats in Tallinn, Estonia in June 2020). It would be a great opportunity to see some of the skills that he is learning and will be great experience for when I enter again. Also with Pomona's the menu is ever evolving and we've moved away from children's menus. I am also filming for another competition which I can't talk about at the moment."