December 2013

The heat is on for Matt

Read time: approx 1 mins

Trainee chef Matt Price is hot stuff in the kitchen having cooked his way to victory in a Tabasco sauce challenge.

Matt, who was mentored by UCB chef lecturer Phil High, stunned the judges with his delicious Sweet Tabasco Syrup. He was also praised for his innovative product packaging and the preparation of his “on-the-go” street food to serve with the new sauce.

Matt, a Level 2 professional cookery student, beat 20 fellow contestants and scored 40 marks more than his nearest competitor in the Tabasco Student Street Food Challenge 2013.

Both student and mentor are now set to live the high life, having won a trip to the home of Tabasco – Avery Island in Lafayette, Louisiana – to experience the cooking and culture of the Deep South. The holiday includes first-class flights with British Airways.

The competition, organised by Tabasco in association with the Craft Guild of Chefs, saw student chefs go head-to-head at the University of West London. Matt was the only contestant to present his own variation of Tabasco sauce, the other chefs using the condiment as a cooking ingredient.

He and Phil came up with the idea of turning the traditional sauce into a sweeter syrup and produced their own labels for the iconic bottle. The sauce was also sealed in small vacuum packs, in the style of small ketchup sachets, making it ideal for squirting on to the top of street food.

Matt prepared a hearty Cajun gumbo of chicken, king prawns and pancetta, which was formed into balls, deep fried, and presented in paper cones. The sweet syrup was served as an accompaniment.

Tabasco’s Original Red provided the base for Matt’s new sauce, to which he added garlic, coriander molasses and caster sugar.

Matt said: “You can’t put it down. The sauce is just so moreish. There is the sweetness to make you come back for more, but there is also the proper heat that Tabasco is known for.

“The food itself was designed to be easy to pick up with your fingers, so you could eat it without getting in a mess.”

It was the first competition Matt had entered and he said he enjoyed the pressure. He said: “I just dealt with it like the tests and end of year exams we do at UCB. It helps that I am good under pressure. It is one of my strong points.”

Phil said UCB had lots of “gifted chefs with excellent palates” and Giovanni Di Vito and Tony Wright had provided valuable feedback on the new sauce throughout its development.

Phil said Tabasco’s chefs were bowled over by the product, adding: “There are seven varieties of Tabasco and the comment I got was ‘We have found Number 8.’”

There were five or six judges and everyone usually has their own favourite but the UCB guy was head and shoulders above everyone else. There was total agreement. It was like a horse race when the winner wins by a lap.

Gary Evans, European Business Development chef Tabasco

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