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First Gerard Basset Tasting Trophy awarded by the Chaîne de Rotisseurs

At an awards ceremony last week, French gastronomic society Chaîne de Rotisseurs crowned the best young chef and sommelier of the year, as well as handing out the first Gerard Basset Tasting Trophy in honour of the late Master Sommelier and former member of the group.

The top young sommeliers in Great Britain. L-R: Matteo Montone, Salvatore Castano and Paul Robineau

Held at The Dorchester Hotel last Friday (22 March), The Chaîne de Rotisseurs GB toasted their new young chef of the year and young sommelier of the year. Open to sommeliers aged between 21 and 30 and chefs between 20 and 27 the finals took place in London and Leatherhead in Surrey respectively.

The inaugural Gerard Basset Tasting Trophy was also awarded during the evening, going to the competitor who had scored the highest marks in the blind tasting and food matching elements of the finals, considered to be those that were closest to Basset’s heart.

Italian born Matteo Montone, 30, currently the wine director at the London Edition Hotel was crowned the young sommelier of the year. Inspired to become a sommelier after a stint working at Locanda Locatelli, Montone has also chalked up stints at The Shard and The Ritz.

Commenting on his achievement, he said: “This is a great honour and I am excited and proud to win. The competition was very close, but all that hard work paid off. I have an understanding wife, Eloisa, who put up with those long hours of extra studying! I would like to thank her, and the team at Edition, for all their help and encouragement to get me here today. Now I want to start on my Master Sommelier qualification.”

Paul Flauvel picking up the inaugural Gerard Basset Tasting Trophy along side Nina Basset (right) and Romané Basset (left).

With just a few points between them, Salvatore Castano, head sommelier at London’s Mash came second, with Paul Robineau of Moor Hall, Lancashire taking third.

Judges this year included Isa Bal MS, Nigel Wilkinson MS, Stefan Neumann MS, Steven Spurrier and Christelle Guibert – alongside Philip Evins, bailli délégué for the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.

Commenting on the result, Evins said: The contest is not only about skills and knowledge but is also about the passion and ability to present to guests – or in this case – our judges!

“This is currently Britain’s only competition for young sommeliers and the increasing numbers of individuals taking part, indicates the role of sommelier is appreciated by many diners. It takes a few years to reach the standard of a winner, but it is hugely encouraging to see the skillsets improve year on year.”

The award for best young chef went to Jordon Powell, 20, from Sussex, who currently works as chef de partie at South Lodge Hotel in Horsham.

Commenting on his achievement, Powell said: “This is a fantastic result as I was up against very stiff competition. But chef contests have always been an important part in my career. I love them, and am very excited to be going to Canada in September, to represent Great Britain. It won’t be a holiday, so I intend to take every opportunity offered between now and then to learn and train. I am very grateful for the support and encouragement of not only South Lodge’s Head Chef Lewis Hamblet, but also my Westminster College tutor Chris Basten.”

Powell and Montone will go on to represent Great Britain in the World Championships this September, held in Calgary in Canada for the chefs and in Seoul, South Korea for the sommeliers.

In a moving ceremony and tribute to the late Gerard Basset, Frenchman Paul Flauvel, 29, head sommelier at The Lanesborough was awarded the inaugural Gerard Basset Tasting Trophy. The award was presented by Gerard’s widow, Nina, and their son Romané.

Nina said: “Gerard always loved blind tastings. In fact it was his favourite part of any competition. I know he would have been very proud of this choice. It is so fitting to have a tasting trophy like this in his name.”

Philip Evins added: “Gerard was not only a good friend to us all, but also an enthusiastic contributor to the Chaine, helping us to create the GB competition back in 2008. He remained chair of the judges until this year, and we have so much to thank him for. Gerard was life-enhancing, and a wonderful mentor of young people, encouraging them in their careers.”

Commenting on Fauvel’s performance, judge Steven Spurrier said: “This candidate was astonishing. He didn’t falter, but calmly, logically and correctly identified all the wines – several of which not even the judges had tried before.”

Flauvel who hails from Normandy, first honed his skills in Bordeaux before travelling around Australia, New Zealand and Dublin and arriving in London three years ago.

Commenting on his achievements, he said: “I am very honoured to win this trophy, awarded for the first time. I only met Gerard Basset once, and it was brief. But the memory has stayed with me, and he has been such an inspiration to young sommeliers like me.”

The sommelier exam consisted of 123 short answer questions covering wine, wine service and spirits. This was followed by a blind wine tasting test, featuring six different wines from classic grape varieties that were assessed in order to established vintage, grape variety, country and appellation. The sommeliers were then given six spirits to identity. Somms were also tested on their decanting, Champagne service, food and wine pairing, general knowledge and serving skills. In addition, they were given a wine list with mistakes in it to correct.

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