International Salon Culinaire Announces Winners of the Cheese Starter Challenge

International Salon Culinaire, the historic chef competition hosted at Hotel, Restaurant & Catering, has unveiled the second set of winners in its series of virtual chef challenges taking place in 2021.  

The Alsop & Walker Cheese Starter Awards, in partnership with Compass Group UK & Ireland, saw chefs around the UK and internationally produce a cheese-based starter, using one of four award-winning British cheeses supplied by Artisan Cheese Makers Alsop & Walker. 

The entrants were required to submit a recipe, a brief description and a photo of the dish, plus a short video showing their creation and detailing their reasons for entering it into the competition.  

At the virtual award ceremony on 14 April, Salon Director Steve Munkley unveiled the dishes which achieved Merit, Bronze and Silver Awards, before revealing that Lance Corporal Sonam Sherpa had won the prestigious Gold Award.  

Chef Sherpa’s winning dish was entitled ‘Why Save the Best for Last?’ and combined a Mayfield cheese fondue tart, tomato and fig chutney, textures of tomato, set rarebit cheese, candied walnut, torched fig, mustard and onion seeded Mayfield tuille and a tomato-infused oil.  

He commented: “I thought, why don’t we bring the elements from the cheese course – the crackers, chutney and cheese – to the starter and serve as a warm, savoury dish?” 

Watch the video for the winning dish here:  

LCpl Sonam Sherpa – Alsop & Walker Cheese Competition Entry 

Salon Director Steve Munkley commented: “After the tremendous success of our first competition I was overwhelmed by the level of entries for this one. Even though many chefs have not been able to get into their commercial kitchens we have seen some incredible entries, developed and cooked in the safe environments of your homes.” 

The award winners were as follows.  

  • LCpl Sonam Sherpa, The Army 


  • James St Claire-Jones, British Army Culinary Arts Team/ Hoar Cross Hall 
  • Pte Brett Silk, The Army 
  • Kurtus Auty, The Swan Inn, Chiddingfold  
  • Lewis Garratt, Royal Air Force 
  • David Hearn, Compass Group – ESS 
  • Michael Jones, Brockley Hall Hotel 
  • Ross Jaegar, Royal Air Force 


  • Varun Khanna, Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management 
  • Charlotte Benbow, Belzan, Manchester 
  • Francesca Briga, Cubbitt House 
  • Graham Mitchell, The Newmachar Hotel 
  • Peter Webster, Private Chef 
  • Robbie Mcguinness, Cvoea 
  • Darren McLellan, Royal Air Force 
  • Sam Wydymus, Terroir 63 
  • Jasmine Payne, Brewhouse and Kitchen 


  • Daniel Johnston, Hoarcross Hall Hotel and Spa 
  • Miguel Soares, The Tower Hotel 
  • Patricia Winters, Patricia Winters 
  • Avraam Dimitrios Avramidis, Home Kitchen 


  • Ethan Sayce, Plant Based Dreams 

Salon Culinaire Project Director Andrew Pantelli commented: “It was fantastic to see the number and level of entries for our second virtual awards and we love that chefs are using this series of competitions to think outside the box and challenge themselves creatively. 

“Huge congratulations to Sonam and all those recognised today, and many thanks to our esteemed judges, headline sponsor Compass Group UK & Ireland and competition sponsor Alsop & Walker.” 

The judging panel for The Alsop & Walker Cheese Starter Awards was:  

  • Arthur Alsop, Alsop & Walker  
  • Daniel Ayton, Chefbytes  
  • Christopher Basten, Westminster Kingsway 
  • Lee Corke, Clare College, Cambridge  
  • Gary Devereaux, House of Lords  
  • Jim Eaves, University of Warwick  
  • Omero Gallucci, Food & Bev Specialist, Gallucci  
  • Ian Jaundoo, City of Liverpool College  
  • Mark Reynolds, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club  
  • Victoria Scupham, The Royal Household 
  • Adam Smith, Cowarth Park Hotel 

Salon Culinaire has two more competition entry deadlines approaching in April. Entries for the Major Seafood Challenge close on 26 April and will see competitors incorporate at least one of the premium stock bases supplied by sponsor Major International.  

The Cacao Barry Lockdown Pastry Challenge will require entrants to create and prepare four pieces of an original chocolate-based snack item, suitable to be sold online and delivered by postal means and using chocolate provided by Cacao Barry. The deadline for this challenge is also 26 April.  

Find out more on the International Salon Culinaire website.  

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About International Salon Culinare 

International Salon Culinaire is the UK’s largest and most prestigious programme of culinary competitions. With a heritage spanning over a century, The Salon Culinaire has been a platform for chefs of all levels – nurturing young chefs at the beginning of their careers as well as showcasing the extraordinary talent of established chefs and highlighting the fantastic culinary skills that our industry has to offer. 

About Montgomery Group 

Montgomery is a global events company with more than 100 years of experience in delivering and exceeding expectations. Dedicated to serving its industry through a range of exhibitions, trade shows, awards and websites, Montgomery nurtures relationships and develops opportunities across mature and emerging geographies within a multitude of sectors.