A chef from a coastal brewpub in Cornwall will compete with peers from Michelin-starred restaurants and 5* hotels next month, having made it through to the final of prestigious regional competition, South West Chef of the Year.
Tom Bennetts, Head Chef of The Driftwood Spars in St Agnes, is the only senior professional chef from Cornwall to make it this far; he’s up against Harrison Brockington of Gather in Totnes, Joe Cotton of Àclèaf at Boringdon Hall Hotel, and Andrew Jenkinson of Lucknam Park in Bath.
Tom said: “Getting through to the final four was such a proud moment for me. I’m up against some very tough opponents from well-respected kitchens, but I’ll give it my best shot!”
The finalists will return to Exeter College on 25th October to compete for the top spot; the winners will be announced at an awards presentation that same evening at Exeter Golf and Country Club.
Tom grew up in St Agnes and started working in local restaurants from a young age, incorporating his family background in the butchery business as part of his skill set.
Although Tom has gained plenty of experience in fine-dining establishments over the years, he’s embraced the role of cooking top quality pub food at The Driftwood Spars.
He says: “At the pub our food is designed for pure enjoyment after a long walk or surf. I think of it as ‘British garden food’ because it follows the seasons and is inspired by our coastal and countryside surroundings. The flavours are fresh and clean, and we use as much local produce as we can pack in. The pub has its own microbrewery, so we use a lot of beer in our cooking too.”
Tom continued: “We have a seasonal menu, then our daily specials allow us to get creative. Lou [Driftwood Spars Landlady, Louise Treseder] has the highest commitment to sustainable, local sourcing of any boss I’ve ever worked with.”
Louise, who has an MA in Tourism & Social Responsibility, has been Landlady at the historic pub in Trevaunance Cove for 15 years; the pub has 15 comfortable bedrooms and hosts weddings, community events and live music throughout the year.
Louise commented: “We’re so proud of Tom, it’s a fantastic achievement. However, what he does on a weekly basis here at the pub is also worthy of praise. He manages to keep the rustic, ‘pub food’ feel while introducing creative new specials all the time, surprising and delighting our guests with his amazing presentation skills. Of course, we will be firmly routing for him on the day of the final!”