Digging for victory: Finalists Announced in Oliver Kay Produce Vegan Dish recipe competition

Three chefs have been shortlisted as finalists in the Oliver Kay National Vegan Dish of the Year 2020, and will now cook off their recipes for a panel of industry judges to decide the overall winner.

Running for the first time in 2020, the competition organised by fresh fruit and veg specialist Oliver Kay Produce challenged chefs to create a new dish to appeal to the growing number of vegan customers eating out. It aims to find recipes with a strong appeal to customers looking for enticing vegan dishes, as well as to inspire hospitality businesses to create profitable vegan menus.

The three finalists are:

  • John Boddice, head chef at Roccos Italian kitchen, Tickhill, Doncaster, part of a small group of family run independent Italian restaurants. His shortlisted dish is Wild Nettle Agnolotti. A chef for 22 years, John is a passionate gardener and his recipe uses ingredients grown in his garden. He says: “I love the super seasonality of the dish, which uses produce grown in my garden. It is a full, flavour-packed dish.”
  • Sunil Varma, a head chef with contract caterers Bartlett Mitchell in London. His shortlisted dish is Broccoli Shank with Black Beans and Ginger. Sunil has been a chef for 24 years, and is also a DJ. He says: “I like the playfulness of the dish, it is fun and draws flavours from a naturally vegan cuisine.”
  • Yuhan Li, a Level 3 student in his final year at Westminster Kingsway College who also works part-time at Japanese restaurant Koya City in London. His shortlisted dish is Deconstructed Cauliflower. He says: “I like the sustainability of this dish, as there is no waste with all parts of the cauliflower used. It is full of different textures and flavours. I enjoy devising vegan dishes as it really challenges your creativity.”

Jane Aukim, marketing manager for Oliver Kay Produce says: “We had some great entries for the competition, and it was a tough process to narrow it down to our three finalists. It will be very interesting to see them put through their paces at the final.”

The shortlisted finalists will now prepare, cook and serve their recipe for the judges at the cook-off final, to be held at Oliver Kay Produce’s development kitchen in Bolton, on Monday 30 March. The final will also include a short Mystery Box challenge inviting entrants to prepare and serve a starter or dessert from a selection of fresh produce provided by Oliver Kay.

Confirmed judges include:

  • Adam Leavy: Semi-finalist in MasterChef the Professionals 2013, and head chef at Alvarium in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, which specialises in vegan small plates;
  • Tony Naylor: Food and drink columnist and feature writer for The Guardian, BBC Good Food. and other titles;
  • Day Radley: International professional chef, food writer and founder of The Vegan Chef School in London.

The prize on offer to the overall winner incudes a UK city break for two, including a dinner booking at a leading vegan restaurant. the shortlisted recipes, credited to their creators, will be featured in a national marketing campaign.

Finalists will receive a hamper of products from the Plant Based Collection, a new range of premium vegan ingredients available through Oliver Kay Produce. For more details see www.oliverkayproduce.co.uk