Jan Smink, owner of restaurant Smink in Wolvego in The Netherlands, has been named the winner of the renowned Le Taittinger Prix Culinaire International following a gastronomic battle of a final that took place on 31st January at the ‘London Le Cordon Bleu’ culinary school.
Marking the first time the final has been held outside of France, Vitalie Taittinger, as President of the Reims-based Champagne House, presented the trophy at the evening celebration at Bafta 195 Piccadilly. She was joined by Emmanuel Renaut, President of the competition and the honorary president for 2023, Michel Roux (Le Gavroche).
National finalists from Belgium, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and, for the first time, the USA, along with the UK fought it out for the first prize of €20,000. This year’s “hero” ingredient saw the chefs celebrating pork at the heart of a signature dish. Drawing on their own inspiration and using personal ingenuity, each contestant’s elegant dish was judged on taste, presentation and creativity. Richard Vaughan of Huntsham Court Farm was in attendance on the night, as the supplier of the pork for the event and competition.
The dishes were tasted and judged blind by a famed international board of judges, which included2018 winner of “Le Taittinger” Kenichiro Sekiya from Japan, as well as many of the biggest culinary names: Bernard Leprince, Amandine Chaignot, Dominique Crenn, Claude Bosi and many more.. Michel Roux, President of the UK National Competition, attended the final, supporting UK finalist Paul Burgalières, Head Chef at three Michelin star L’Enclume in Cumbria.
Smink was representing his country at Le Prix for the third and final time this year, and joins recent Dutch winners Lars Van Galen and Jonathan Zandbergen, who won the Taittinger Prize in 2011 and 2014 respectively.
Originally set up by Taittinger’s founder, Pierre Taittinger, “Le Taittinger” international culinary prize was revitalised in 2020 by Vitalie Taittinger, to provide chefs increased autonomy when expressing their innovations and talents.
Vitalie Taittinger comments: “The ‘Le Prix’ final never fails to be an exhilarating event – it’s definitely a favourite amongst our family and was dearly missed during the pandemic. So, it’s an absolute joy to be back and to see this level of originality and skill in the kitchen. I am incredibly proud to have been part of “Le Taittinger Prix International de Cuisine d’Auteur’final for well over 10 years now, and I remain in awe of the talents that shine from such young chefs. 2023 hasn’t failed to demonstrate that this competition delivers exceptional standards and extraordinary dishes. There can only be one winner, but every chef contender here today is outstanding.”
The competition, which was set up in 1967, has crowned champions including Joel Robuchon, Bernard Leprince and Michel Roth. It is open to chefs between the ages of 24 and 39, with over five years’ experience. Often referred to as the ‘Everest of Gastronomy’, the contest demonstrates Champagne Taittinger’s commitment to the promotion of young, upcoming chefs.