14 Jan 2019
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Sergejs Sobolevs

Sergejs set for Sodexo chef showdown

For possibly the first time in history a qualified welder is challenging for the title of Sodexo Chef of the Year.

Sergejs Sobolevs is chef de partie at Sodexo’s London office One Southampton Row and at the NEC Birmingham next Tuesday (22 January) he will be one of eight challengers for Sodexo Chef of the Year 2019, but his career path into foodservice was not a traditional one.

Born in Latvia of Russian heritage, Sergejs moved to London eight years ago looking for work in construction, but instead got a job through a friend as a kitchen assistant.

‘I supported the food development team. They had won a contract for the 2012 Olympic Games. I watched them work on menus and from there I started to know more about food,’ said Sergejs.

From there, Sergejs worked as a kitchen porter and salad chef before becoming a chef de partie. He started an NVQ level two in professional cookery and functional skills.

It was while taking his apprenticeship, he met sous chef Luke Townley (part of the Sodexo Culinary Challenge winning team in September). When Luke moved to the One Southampton Row restaurant, he gave his friend a call about a job. Sergejs joined Sodexo in June 2018.

Having completed his apprenticeship course in November, Sergejs was discussing Sodexo Chef of the Year with his colleagues.

‘The head chef said you should go there, it’ll be fun,’ said Sergejs. ‘So I signed up. I said I didn’t have any experience of fine dining so they said they would support me.’

In a heat against three other Sodexo Corporate Services chefs Sergejs prepared a starter of maple glazed pumpkin with toasted buckwheat, carrot fondant, tahini and burnt lemon dressing; a main of rack of lamb, Jerusalem artichokes puree, brazed chicory with breadcrumbs and pine nuts toasted in lamb fat; and a dessert of blood orange and chocolate tart.

He won a place in the final, a 90-minute live contest.

Each of the competitors took part in a mentor day, where they met the judges and organisers and got feedback on their dishes.

National Chef of the Year 2019 winner Kuba Winkowski is one of the judges.

‘He said we had to focus and not overcomplicate dishes. You don’t have much time so use fewer ingredients that work well together,’ said Sergejs of the advice given by Kuba on the mentor day.

Ahead of the final, Sergejs is a little nervous but looking forward to the challenge.

‘I’m hungry to do new things. You don’t develop unless you try these things,’ he said.

‘I’ve worked for a few different foodservice companies but Sodexo is the first one to give me the opportunity to do something like this, rather than just go to work every day.’

The Sodexo Chef of the Year 2019 final starts at 12.20pm. Follow the action live on Twitter using the hashtag #SodexoChef19.

Interested in becoming an apprentice chef with Sodexo? Find out more.

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