Star studded win for Ashdown chef

A Sussex chef is the crème de la crème after winning the 2013 Roux Scholarship, the premier competition for UK chefs.

Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club senior sous chef Paul O’Neill, 28, was crowned culinary champion in the final episode of a nail-biting two-week TV series that followed the 18 semi-finalists, then whittled down to the final six contenders, during the scholarship’s milestone 30th anniversary year.

Hotel manager Ben Booker said: “This is an absolutely fantastic achievement and we are delighted and very proud for Paul. The scholarship is recognised at home and abroad and is regarded as the most prestigious competition in the UK hospitality industry.”

Paul, who lives in Crowborough and has worked at the country house hotel at Wych Cross, near Forest Row, for nearly three years, won an apprenticeship at a three star Michelin Restaurant, £5,000 to support his career development and extra rewards including a trip to the Champagne region and an espresso coffee company in Italy, meals at top restaurants and a set of chef’s knives.

Paul said: “Being filmed added a lot of extra stress but it was worthwhile as it also meant we were taken to Switzerland to be with the Roux family in their home, took part in masterclasses and did all kinds of amazing things over and above what previous finalists have done.”

Paul will spend three months at the Pierre Gagnaire in Paris before returning to Ashdown Park. He said: “The whole thing was an absolutely incredible experience and I was chuffed to bits to be one of the six finalists.”