One of the biggest highlights of the Festival of Culture programme was Russell Brown’s Pop-Up Challenge, which was on the penultimate night of the Festival. This was an innovative and exciting competition that pits three up-and-coming talented local chefs against each other for the top prize. One lunch & night, three venues, three courses and one winner…. cooking doesn’t get tougher than this!!! (sorry!)

Russell, Dorset’s only Michelin-starred chef and owner of Sienna in Dorchester, spent time with the chefs privately prior to the event to help them create their menu and coach them through potential challenges and pitfalls. Along with ensuring an even playing field for the competitors, there was a strong focus on seasonality and sourcing local ingredients – two culinary elements local foodies are passionate about and West Dorset chefs are famed for.

The whole competition was a great success and the high quality of the dishes produced by all the young chefs was even more amazing when you take into consideration that some were cooking in unfamiliar kitchens and/or while still doing their day job!! – well done to all and just shows how blessed we are in West Dorset to have these great young chefs. In the end David Lane just edged out the two Brown brothers to become the overall winner – congratulations Dave.

A few quotes from the comment cards made by the diners:

  • “wonderful flavours, well balanced”
  • “we’ll be back! A lovely evening”
  • “excellent standard of presentation, full of high quality cooking technique”


Russell sums up the competition: “all the contestants produced high quality food under difficult circumstances. In the end only 50 odd marks out of a possible 1,500 separated the 3. Dave however exhibited a high degree of technical ability, produced great depth of flavour and showed good organisational skills allowing him to take the top spot in a closely fought competition.”

Huge thanks to:
Russell Brown for all his hard work mentoring these young chefs and for donating a prize.
Richard Budd for all these amazing photographs (C) 2012.
Tamsin Chandler director of the Bridport Festival of Culture for organising the whole event and for her opening words.
All the participating restaurants Beach & Barnicott and the Avenue.
The donators of the prizes I.O.Shen knife, Waterstone’s and Hix Restaurant
Plus Sue Williams for her brilliant review.

The Winner David Lane
(Beach and Barnicott, Bridport)

First prize:
3 piece set I.O.Shen knife set which consists of a pointed parer, 21cm Chef’s and Sahm Khom Slicer (worth £190)
Lunch for two at Sienna in Dorchester
Cookbook of choice to £40 value from Waterstone’s Bridport
Hix cookbook

West Dorset Foodie: We were lucky enough to grab a table and sample his amazing food. The starter of lightly smoked mackerel was a picture and the sweetness of the gooseberry dressing balanced the whole dish.

The strong flavours of the braised pig cheeks should have overpowered the scallops, but they didn’t and you could still taste these perfectly cooked sweet sensations! The potato and sweet corn croquettes where very good, but ours were only just warm.

The “Mojito” cheese cake won the battle between the two desserts, with the mint & lime jelly adding zing to the dish.

West bay mackerel lightly smoked then pan fried with avocado & a gooseberry dressing

Salad of summer baby tomatoes with basil oil & garlic crisps

Pig cheeks braised in cider, with seared Lyme bay scallops, turnip puree & potato & sweet corn croquettes

Roasted yellow beets with a crisp baby carrot & beetroot salad, warm new potatoes & goats cheese mousse

“Mojito” cheese cake with mint jelly finished with a lime salted tuile

Peach mousse cake with fresh peaches & honey brushed brioche

The runners up (in no particular order)
Consolation prizes for the runners up:
I.O.Shen Paring Knife (worth £55)
Hix cookbook

Dan Brown
(Wild Garlic, Beaminster)

Dan was first to go and was cooking lunch at the Avenue, Bridport. Pressure was on because he had some VIP guests, Matt Follas (his boss!), Tamsin Chandler (festival director) and local Beaminster bobby+ Clive Chamberlain.

Pickled fruit and vegetables, local cheese

Mussels, cider cream, rock samphire, lemon soda bread

Linguine, tomato, chilli, courgette, peas, jack by the hedge

Lamb, beans, peas, pesto, sea purse lane

Chocolate brownie, cherries, salt and pepper ice cream

Mint pannacotta, raspberries, chocolate ice cream

Dom Brown
(Avenue, Bridport)

Sue Williams: We shared two very generous starters of wild mushrooms with wood sorrel and also a smoked haddock rarebit. The mushroom dish was a lovely combination of flavours, the mushrooms themselves were perfectly cooked and the beetroot puree gave the dish a splash of colour.

The flavour of the smoked haddock rarebit was excellent and the dish had the addition of caramelised onions which was a pleasant surprise, the sauce of the onions was delicious.

For mains I had the roasted butternut squash which was an exquisitely detailed looking dish. It was perfectly cooked and had a pleasing combination of colour, texture and taste with the enterprising ingredient of sweet corn caviar!

My companion had Dorset pork and chorizo pudding with a garlic and spring onion mash. He really enjoyed the dish and described it as having your tummy hugged by something warm and satisfying!

Both main dishes were accompanied by a healthy and delicious side of sea greens that the chef had foraged himself.

Once again we shared two desserts. The spiced dark chocolate mousse with a spiced rum butterscotch sauce drizzled around the plate was to die for and I was sorry to be sharing it, this was a pudding to keep for yourself!

Possibly the most accomplished dish of the night was the Allington Hill apple juice jelly with blackberry compote and elderflower ice cream. This pudding combined the tastes of our long forgotten summer in the flavour of the smooth and creamy elderflower ice cream and the rich blackberry compote. The jelly was superb and there was also a very clever addition of crackling sugar crystals on the ice cream which popped on the tongue to give the impression of drinking elderflower champagne. It was a delight.

The whole experience was extremely enjoyable. We were very impressed by the amount of work and the technique that had gone into making all of the dishes and feel that the chef Dom Brown is an exciting young man of considerable talent and potential.

Foraged mushrooms & wood sorrel on toast

Bridport smoked haddock rarebit & soft-boiled quail egg

Roast butternut squash, pickled carrot, beetroot puree & sweet corn caviar

Dorset pork & chorizo pudding with a garlic & spring onion mash

Spiced dark chocolate mousse

Allington Hill apple juice jelly, blackcurrant compote & elderflower ice cream


Photographs by (C) 2012

Review Disclosures
Invited by PR company? No
Guest of chef/restaurant/owner? No
Restaurant/outlet knew ahead we were bloggers? No
Was the meal complimentary from the restaurant? No
Any complimentary items provided by restaurant/outlet? No
Similar Posts
Latest Posts from The Dorset Foodie Family

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.