Five finalists from across the UK gathered at Le Cordon Bleu’s Cord restaurant yesterday to contest this year’s Gosset Matchmaker’s competition. Contestants were left in no doubt about the scale of the challenge facing them.
‘We started this in 2016 and its just got better and better over the last six years,’ said Will Oatley, MD of Gosset’s importers, Louis Latour Agencies.
Matthieu Longuere MS from Le Cordon Bleu London school, and chairman of the judges, told the assembled teams about the extra challenge facing them, in the form of a Mystery Box, from which they would have to create a second dish to match with the Gosset Grande Millésime 2012. There was a wide range of ingredients to choose from, but all creations had to use Berkswell cheese – a sheep’s milk cheese.
As the teams surveyed the list of ingredients and threw ideas around, chef judge Laetizia Keating said she was ‘looking for the teams to work harmoniously together’.
‘Chefs often have a strong character, but you have to respect that your colleague has their own experience,’ she said. ‘You can match food to wine, or wine to food. There are different approaches.’
But which approach would be successful? Before long, our teams were tasting, preparing and cooking assiduously, always with one eye on the clock. Our judges watched and waited and eventually, once all the dishes had been presented and tasted we had a winner.
Gosset Matchmakers Winner 2022
Fischers, Baslow Hall, Derbyshire
Matthew Davison and Adam Eyre
Hand-dived Orkney scallop with nori salt, baked celeriac, fermented ceps, XO sauce, umeboshi furikake.
A combination of their restaurant’s increasing Japanese/Asian influence, but with a seasonal, earthy, autumnal twist, the Fischers’ team’s signature dish held together well. Julien Cointreau was not the only one to appreciate the fact that he could clearly taste all the flavours – and that it worked very well with their chosen Blanc de Blancs.
‘A lot of thought went into this match,’ said Svet. ‘The use of the celeriac in the stock really works with the blanc de blancs. The whole thing is incredibly good.’
Moreover, they kept the standard high with their mystery box dish: Dover sole with mushroom and bean fricassee, black garlic purée and Berkswell cheese and cream velouté. ‘We knew we could go autumnal and savoury, because we knew the champagne would lift it,’ said sommelier Matthew, who was making his second appearance in the Matchmakers’ final.
‘They really had the right idea on the pairings,’ said Louise. ‘Their thought process was very good.’
‘They nailed it with both courses,’ added Will Oatley. ‘The concentration, the flavours, and the combination with the champagne. And both dishes were cooked to perfection.’
As well as a magnum each of Champagne Gosset Grand Blanc de Blanc Brut, which they took away on the day, Matthew and Adam will (Covid permitting) be heading off to northern France in January for a three day immersive Champagne experience as guests of Champagne Gosset. They will visit the chateau and vineyards, tour the cellar and get a masterclass in blending and tasting with the chef de cave, Odilon de Varine.
‘We are both quite nervous of competitions, so we genuinely weren’t expecting to win,’ said a delighted Matthew. ‘But the industry has been so tough over the last 18 months that to come here and win was extra special. We can’t wait for the trip. I’ve not been to champagne before, to it’s great to have something to look forward to!’
We’ll bring you a review of what is sure to be an amazing trip. And if you’d like to have a chance of winning the prize yourself, contact us, and we’ll make sure to let you know when next year’s entry goes live.
Runners up (in alphabetical order)
67 Pall Mall
Lucy Meza-Ortega and Sammy Benouhoud
Champagne-infused jelly with lime zest and a touch of lavender flower, crème patissiere infused with apricot, robed with honey, apricot and a smoked thyme coulis.
‘We focused on apricot, because that’s a key flavour in the champagne,’ said Lucy. ‘The champagne will refresh your palate but also mirror the flavours.’
Matching a dessert with a blanc de blancs was a brave call – and split the judges. Some found the strong citrus flavours dominated the Blanc de Blancs; others thought it was excellent and nominated it their top match of the day.
‘They didn’t make it too sweet, which was smart,’ said Svet Manolev MS. ‘For me it really worked. They understood the flavour components in the wine and the dish really well.’
The mystery box dish, using quinoa, beets, kohl rabi and Dover sole, cut through with honey and black garlic vinaigrette was less successful – not least because the cheese seemed rather lost, but there was much to admire in Lucy and Samy’s overall effort.
Vic Watkins and Emily-Rose Lucas
A take on a gateau Breton with a brown butter biscuit base, prunes cooked in manzanilla and irish sheeps’ cheese ice cream.
‘We noted a maltiness and a nuttiness in the Grande Reserve Brut,’ said chef Vic Watkins. ‘Also notes of manzanilla, and we wanted to incorporate that.’
Another ambitious attempt, our tasters felt the dish worked in isolation, but was less successful with the wine, where the sweetness made the champagne taste rather austere. However their mystery-box dish – of beans cooked with thyme and bay, charred leeks and cheese made into a cracker was an imaginative statement which drew admiration from the majority of our judges.
‘Of all the teams, this is the mystery box dish where the Berkswell cheese element works best,’ said Laetizia Keating.
Emeline Gigaud and Francesco di Flumeri
Trompe l’oeil of Granny Smith apple poached in oyster and champagne dressing, scallops coral foam with blanc de blancs jelly.
The Sketch duo had clearly put an enormous amount of effort into their presentation, with not one, but two prepared dishes, as well as the mystery-box dish, plus a home-made tisane designed to capture champagne flavours, and pre-printed menu cards outlining the two preconceived dishes.
‘Blanc de blancs is not only for an aperitif,’ said Emeline. ‘We think you can enjoy it at any time of the meal.’
It was an ambitious pitch, and the judges liked the idea of reworking the same ingredients in two different ways to create sweet and savoury dishes. But their prepared dishes ran into problems with the wine matching.
‘I liked the inventiveness, but I found the food overpowered the wine,’ said Louise Gordon.
The mystery-box dish, however – a far simpler bean risotto, made with fish-stock, was very well received. ‘I liked the simplicity – and it was a very good match,’ said Svet. Mathieu Longuere MS agreed, saying it was ‘their best dish’.
Where the Light Gets In
Emily Klomp, Seri Nam
Onion and scallop entrail sauce, emulsified with butter, soy and plum wine, topped with hawthorn oil, pickled samphire, sea purslane and maromi.
Of all the teams today, this Stockport team had the strongest sustainability ethos, with hand-foraging and home-creation very much part of their entry. ‘We hate to throw anything away,’ said Emily.
The intensity of the scallop entrail sauce drew approving nods from our judges, as well as Cordon Bleu’s head chef, David Duverger, who was overseeing the teams in the kitchen. But it created problems for the wine. ‘It just overpowers the Blanc de Blanc,’ said Laetitia. Reworking the sauce into a supporting rather than starring role would have been better, they felt.
Their mystery-box dish – Dover sole with creamy cheese water sauce, black garlic and crispy kale – was well conceived but just missed the mark.
‘You can see what they were trying to do, but they didn’t quite execute on it,’ said Louise.
Feedback From The Judges
If you’re thinking of entering next year (and you should!) then our judges have some advice for you.
‘Teams often just tried to match the flavours in the wine with similar flavours in the food. But it’s about more than that. Food pairing is how textures, temperatures and flavours interact… all of it.’ Svet Manolev MS, 67 Pall Mall
‘Some teams had one great dish but were let down by the other. It’s about consistency across the board.’ Laetizia Keating, Head Chef, The Pem
‘We weren’t necessarily looking for wow factor or theatre. We wanted something where neither the food or wine dominated. There were some dishes we loved on their own, but they changed big-time with the wine. We wanted dishes where you could still taste the wine and the food was highlighted by it.’ Mathieu Longuere MS, Wine Director, Cordon Bleu
‘The teams didn’t always talk enough about their thought process behind the wine matching – and that’s important. This isn’t about showing off. It’s about getting the essentials right and working together.’ Julien Cointreau, Director, Champagne Gosset
‘There were some outstanding dishes, but often they were let down by the mystery dish. Interestingly, simple was usually better.’ Louise Gordon, Head of Wine and Bars, Heckfield Place
Many thanks to Teresa, David and all the team at Cord for the use of their restaurant, and all their help on the day. Congratulations to all the teams who entered – particularly those who trekked down to London for the final. And many thanks to Champagne Gosset for a great idea, encouraging young somms and chefs to get creative, work together – and drink great Champagne!