Roux Scholarship 2020 / 2021: Oli Williamson is the Roux Scholar 2020 / 2021

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

Sous-chef at The Fat Duck Oli Williamson has won the Roux Scholarship 2020 / 2021.

Among the six chefs competing in today's national final held at Westminster Kingsway College, Oli took the title against Jonnie Ferguson of two Michelin star County Durham restaurant The Raby Hunt; Ryan Baker, sous chef at Maison Francois in London and national finalist in the scholarship in 2019; Nathan Cornwell, head chef at The BarnRestaurant Moor Hall; head chef at The Newt, twice a Roux scholarship finalist and the Craft Guild of Chefs' Young National Chef of the Year 2013 and NCOTY 2018 finalist, Ben Champkin; and former chef at Northcote and The Chester Grosvenor, Curtis Tonge.

Born and raised in Norfolk, the chef has worked in some of the world's best restaurants including The Neptune, Midsummer House and Benu in San Francisco, before joining the team at three Michelin-starred Bray Restaurant owned by Heston Blumenthal.

Whittled down from eighteen chefs who took part in the regional finals in London and Birmingham on September 9th, the contestants have been waiting to vye for the title since March 2020, when the competition was first postponed, before it was pushed back again in March 2021 - meaning there were no new applicants in March 2021. It is the first competition to be held since the passing of competition founders, Michel Roux Snr and Albert Roux.

Introducing the awards ceremony, Michel Roux Jr said: "I often get asked, what is it like to become a Roux scholar? Well, it's a career defining moment. It opens doors, opportunities, but for me, it's being part of the family. Not just the extended Roux family, but also a family of past winners."

Björn Frantzén said the final was "super exciting, especially with the classic food. You need to learn the classics and the basics before you start developing your own cooking and style so I was super excited that that was the theme today. It was great to see."

"I had a great time, I really started my professional career in London, so to be back in this room today [...] and to be  here on stage, it's a great honour."

Barely able to compose himself so overwhelmed he was by his victory, Oli said the day had been an "emotional rollercoaster," and that he couldn't have succeeded without his "close-knit team, parents and girlfriend."

Asked how he thinks the award will affect his career, he said: "absolute game changer." Pointing upwards and saying, "I'm glad I did well for the family, and the guys up there."

As part of his prize, Oli will receive a cash prize of up to £12,000 and the opportunity to undertake a three-month stage at a three Michelin-starred restaurant anywhere in the world.

The panel of judges was led by honorary president Björn Frantzén, chef owner of three Michelin-starred Restaurant Frantzén in Stockholm, joined of course by Alain and Michel Roux Jr., as well as Brian Turner CBE, James Martin, Simon Hulstone and Angela Hartnett.

The awards were streamed online, while instead of the traditional ceremony the finalists and an intimate group of guests were treated to a dinner at The Vincent Rooms at Westminster Kingsway College cooked by Roux Scholars Spencer Metzger, Martin Carabott and Luke Selby and the catering students of the college.

The last person to have won the Roux Scholarship was Spencer Metzger, head chef at The Ritz in London, in 2019.

The competition for 2022 will begin on November 8th. 

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 25th October 2021

Roux Scholarship 2020 / 2021: Oli Williamson is the Roux Scholar 2020 / 2021