Birmingham can boast of having the world’s best young chef after achieving stunning success in the culinary equivalent of the Olympics.
Kristian Curtis, of Michelin-starred Simpsons in Edgbaston, was named best commis chef at the Bocuse D’Or in Lyon.
And there was double delight for the restaurant at the biennial competition - the world’s biggest cookery contest - when its head chef Adam Bennett finished fourth overall and won the prize for the best meat dish.
He stunned the judges with his reinvention of historic British food including oak-smoked beef fillet and boiled beef and carrots.
The duo narrowly missed out on a medal, wth third-placed Japan just six points ahead.
The UK’s best finish until now had been seventh. France took the gold medal.
Bennett and Curtis’s efforts mean Birmingham effectively has the best beef chef and the best young chef in the world.
They battled it out against 23 elite chefs from five continents in an intense five-and-a-half hour cook-off.
Bennett, 46, said: “It’s been the ride of a lifetime. What an amazing experience to go head to head with some of the best chefs in the world and represent your country.
“Everything went to plan. We couldn’t have done any better.”
Bennett and Curtis, a 22-year-old chef de partie, were cheered on at the Eurexpo Lyon by a partisan crowd of flag-waving Brits in an auditorium packed with 1,800 spectators and the world’s media.
The Barmy Army, a five-piece brass band that follows England at major sporting events, drowned out the supporters from other countries with rousing renditions of Rule Britannia.
The Birmingham support team included members of the Simpsons’ kitchen brigade, students from University College Birmingham, where Bennett trained for five months, city chefs and members of Birmingham’s Delice group – a network of cities known for their gastronomy.
Bennett’s family, including wife Nibedita and three-year-old daughter Asha, also joined the UK team.
All the Bocuse D’Or chefs had to prepare a fish dish and a meat platter in five hours and 35 minutes, the cooking judged by a select committee of the world’s top chefs.
Competitors had to produce their own take on turbot and blue lobster, serving 14 identical restaurant-style plates.
Irish beef fillet was the centrepiece for the grand meat platter, presented by Bennett on sparkling Birmingham-made silverware.
Bennett said he wanted his menu to celebrate the very best of British cuisine “keeping integrity with the ingredients while adding my personality to acknowledge our rich and diverse culinary heritage”.
The chef’s techniques ranged from the ancient use of smoking the beef with English oak to the modernist creation of a sphere of braised oxtail and cheek.
There was an interpretation of British “peasant food” with Bennett’s take on “boiled beef and carrots” and the use of forgotten historic ingredients such as pickled walnuts.
For the fish course, a seaweed-topped tronçon of turbot filled with lobster, the chef was inspired by the old East End dish of jellied eels for one of three garnishes.