Mickael Viljanen, Angela Hartnett, Phil Howard and Alyn Williams have been announced as the jury of professional chefs for the UK and Ireland at the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2017 Local Competition.
Judging 10 young chef semi-finalists from across the UK and Ireland the talented foursome will be tasked with selecting just one young chef, based on their signature dish, to represent the region at the grand final held in Milan in 2018.
Assuming the role of both juror and mentor is well known UK chef, Angela Harnett MBE. Known for her sophisticated, yet simple Italian-inspired cooking at Michelin-starred Murano in Mayfair, Harnett has also been recognised for her wider services to the hospitality industry with an MBE. Harnett will offer both her professional and technical expertise to inspire and guide the UK and Ireland winner right up until the final, where their signature dish will have to hold up against 20 other regional finalist dishes when tasted by the Seven Sages, an international panel of the world’s best chefs.
Hartnett’s passion for good, honest food and the best ingredients was instilled in her by her mother and grandmother in her youth and later formalised in kitchens including Aubergine, Zafferano, L’Oranger, Petrus, and as head chef at Perts. She also launched Amaryllis in Scotland; Verre in Dubai; and Menu and The Grill Room at The Connaught with Gordon Ramsay.
Joining her on the team of jurors is Alyn Williams, Chef Patron at Alyn Williams at The Westbury. The London-born chef’s passion for food and flavours took hold as a child, and his fledgling cooking career began at the tender age of 16.
After excelling at catering college, including a placement at Claridge’s, he honed his skills in both France and the US before joining the Gordon Ramsay Group and working for several of its restaurants. Following a stint at The Groucho Club, he worked under Marcus Wareing at Petrus before becoming head chef and winning a second Michelin star there.
Fellow Londoner and juror, chef Phil Howard, made a name for himself with 25 years at the helm of The Square restaurant, where he held two Michelin stars for 17 years. In his new project at Elystan Street he will remain very much on the London scene, fulfilling his desire to cook simpler food with a greater emphasis on pure, clean and lighter dishes.
Phil’s work life as a chef started at Roux Restaurants in 1988, having decided not to pursue a career in Microbiology upon graduation. He also trained under Marco Pierre White at Harvey’s and Simon Hopkinson at Bibendum.
Finalising the line-up is Finnish-born chef Mickael Viljanen, hailing from Michelin-starred Dublin restaurant, The Greenhouse. Viljanen made his name with Gregan's Castle in the Burren and has twice been named Best Chef in Ireland.
The inaugural edition of the global talent search for the best young chef in the world saw Irishman Mark Moriarty crowned S.Pellegrino Young Chef in 2015. He went on to become a worldwide ambassador for Irish food. The quartet of top judges will be hoping for a comeback by spotting the best homegrown talent in this third edition.