Apart from a few hours sleep in a range of hotel beds, last week was non-stop.
It kicked off in Scotland, with a night in the beautiful Monachyl Mohr. We (myself, Jordan, Amanda and Michelle) were hosted by Laurent Vernet, from Scotch Lamb and joined after dinner by butcher, chef, farmer and all round entrepreneur, Tom Lewis. Tom is passionate about local produce and helped me get up to speed with some of the tastiest breeds of Scotch lamb.
I left for Scotland with some clear ideas for my Bocuse d'Or dishes but I went prepared for these to be critiqued and changed. An hour spent with Jonathon Honeyman the next morning was certainly useful in terms of identifying a few new ideas for the lamb. Next step a farm, where we came face to face with the hardy Scotch Lamb - it was damn cold and Jordan did a great impression of Rudolph. Andrew Morton, the farmer, was a lovely guy although I certainly don't envy him his job! There were plenty of photos being taken of us with the sheep and we squeezed in an interview with BBC Scotland up on the moors.
I don't want to give too much away but it was invaluable spending time with Laurent too - he could win Mastermind if his specialist field was Scotch Beef and Lamb!
We were collected from Gleneagles by Sarah and Nicki from Seafood Scotland and taken on a four hour trip up to the Buchan Braes in Peterhead. It wasn't a late night as we needed to be at the fish market by 7am the next morning. What a fish market it was too - I was so impressed by its scale and variety of the fish there.
It was also great to see some pretty big cod - a sure sign that the quotas and restricted fishing areas are having an effect. We then stopped off at a Langoustine processing plant where we just about managed to catch the end of the packing. They start very early there.
Another highlight for me was stepping onto William Reid's boat, Will pioneered frozen at sea and is responsible for bringing back tonnes of langoustine which really is as fresh as it can be. It was fascinating to see how the fisherman live on this deceptively large vessel but hard to comprehend what it must be like in rough seas!
We ate at the award winning Ashvale restaurant before we headed back to the airport, we joked about how many chippies claim to be the best in the UK but I have to admit these were great fish and chips.
On Thursday, it was time for another Golf Course, this time the Celtic Manor where I headed up the English Culinary Team in preparing a pre-CESA conference dinner in a bid to raise funds for the Bocuse d'Or. Whilst we were in the kitchen for most of it, we had some great feedback on the food and the auction hosted by Brian Turner raised more than £17K.
On behalf of Team UK I would like to thank everyone who came to the dinner and those who bid so generously. I'd also like to express our appreciation towards Baxter Storey and Hobart who have both recently donated significant sums. We've also had enquiries from companies offering equipment and ingredients which is great.
Fantastic to have the support of the media too - it really feels like people are getting behind us!