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Winning with seafood as competition comes to town

JUNE is set to be a busy month for the Oak Ridge Group; not only is wedding season well and truly in full swing at both of the hotels, but also the Young Seafood Chef of the Year competition comes to town.  

Winning with seafood as competition comes to town

Oak Ridge is a main and founding sponsor of the event, open to teams from around the UK.

They are judged in regional heats for their specially created seafood menus, culminating in the final, held at Grimsby Institute’s University Centre on June 13.

In a longstanding arrangement, The Brackenborough Hotel in Louth will host the gala dinner for the finalists and judges on the eve of the final, as well as providing accommodation for the judges.

Oak Ridge Group managing director, Ashley Lidgard, said: “I am always keen to forge links with the local community; the Grimsby Institute is a fantastic training ground for new talent, and ultimately creates the area’s future chefs, so we are keen to support them. I also trained in the Institute kitchens too, many years ago, so there is more than a little history there!”

And the Oak Ridge Group’s links with seafood don’t end there. Fish features prominently on the menus at both properties; all is fresh, and locally sourced and supplied. The Brackenborough is renowned in the area for its ‘Brackie Whale & Chips’, so large that it barely fits on the plate!

The company has had fish supplied by Freeman’s Fish Merchants in Grimsby since Ashley’s parents first bought the hotel 27 years ago, and that relationship continued when he bought the business in 2005. Pete Freeman supplies both The Brackenborough and The Ashbourne with its fresh haddock, plaice, skate and other favourites, tempting customers from far and wide.

Using locally sourced, seasonal produce is one of the many stipulations that have earned The Brackenborough its coveted AA Rosette star for food since 2008.

“Why mess with a winning formula?” Ashley said. “The haddock from Freeman’s has been consistently excellent in all the 27 plus years we’ve been serving it. It’s just another fine example of putting faith in local suppliers, and those relationships paying dividends. The amount of local repeat business we have week in, week out – just for that particular dish alone – proves that the customer really can taste the difference.”

As proud ambassadors of local produce, the hotels have a keen interest in fish dishes, and the teams at each hotel always look forward to the final of the competition.

The places they have at the dinner are always highly prized by whomever they are allocated to. Ashley added: “Seeing the upcoming chefs and their modern take on seafood-based cuisine, we are always impressed and inspired to see what they come up with for the final. We’ve never had a bad dish in the years we’ve been attending to be honest, so at risk of sounding cliché – they’re all winners in our eyes!”

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