A work experience placement organised by Steyning Grammar School has led to former student Ricki Weston competing for the title of Britain’s best young chef for the second year running.
It was at Whites in Steyning High Street that Ricki realised he would love a career as a chef – quite a surprise as up to that point he had no idea what he wanted to do.
Ricki, now 26, said: “I thought it was going to be the worst week of my life but within about half an hour, I absolutely loved it. I realised I was enjoying it so much, I didn’t want to stop.
“I have always loved cooking but I never thought I would have it as a career. I decided I wanted to be a chef and halfway through my A-levels, I dropped out to start working in the kitchen.”
Ricki, who was born and brought up in Storrington, has again won through to the semi-finals of The Roux Scholarship and will be taking part in the regional heat in Birmingham tomorrow, when six chefs will be chosen to go through to the final on April 1.
Now working as a sous chef at the internationally-acclaimed Whatley Manor Hotel in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, Ricki was one of 18 chefs selected from a paper application and recipe sent anonymously.
He said he was a little nervous but having competed in the semi-finals last year for the first time, he at least at some idea how it would go.
“Everybody has to cook the recipe they submitted and you get a mystery box of pastry ingredients to design a dessert,” said Ricki.
“I know the format now. Last year, I might have over-thought it a little bit but it was my first time and I was a bit nervous. It is all on the day.”
Ricki started his career at South Lodge in Lower Beeding and won the national title 2014 Chaîne des Rôtisseurs’ Young Chef of the Year in 2014.
He went on to work at the prestigious Sat Bains restaurant in Nottingham, where he was based when he competed in last year’s semi-finals.
Ricki said he has had incredible support from his partner, who recently gave birth to their son, and his employers.
Whatley Manor said it was a huge accolade for chefs to be selected for the regional finals and sent its very best wishes with Ricki as he competes to win a place in the final.
The Roux Scholarship has been running more than 30 years and is judged by Michel Roux Jnr, Brian Turner and James Martin, among many other Michelin-starred chefs.