Wendy Thomas admits she’s in a state of shock after being declared winner of S4C’s Casa Dudley 2008 cookery competition.
41-year-old Wendy, originally from Bontnewydd and now living in Llanrug, Gwynedd, was encouraged to take part in the competition by her friends who enjoy her cooking.
She felt she wasn’t good enough but, after some persuasion, she applied, and to her surprise and delight succeeded in reaching the final rounds in Spain, before going on to win. In the final showdown she beat headteacher Sion Owain Jones from Llandegfan, Anglesey.
“We had an hour and 45 minutes to produce a three-course meal which would show the skills we had learnt during our time in the Casa mobile kitchen in Ronda in Spain,” explains Wendy, who works as an administrator with agency Cartrefi Cymru, and also as a front of house manager at Caernarfon’s Galeri centre. “The time flew by. I had intended to serve couscous with the lamb as a main course but I didn’t have time to cook it!”
Wendy’s culinary skills still managed to wow the judges. They were Benito Gomez from the well known Tragabuches restaurant, and two Michelin star winner Sergi Arola, who is a culinary giant in Spain. They deliberated for an hour and a half before their decision was announced.
“It felt that we were waiting for ages,” says Wendy, “but I didn’t think I had done well enough to win. When my name was announced I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t think straight.”
Wendy’s prize is a week’s stay, with tuition, at two Michelin Star winner Raymond Blanc’s famous restaurant, luxury hotel and cookery school, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.
“I’m going to go there in February and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve already been on their website and it looks wonderful. I feel as if I’m in a dream!”
Chef Dudley Newbery, who co-presented this year’s Casa Dudley with Emma Walford, congratulated Wendy on her achievement.
“It’s been wonderful seeing these amateur cooks develop over the series,” said Dudley. “It’s been hard work for the contestants as they have had to adapt to an unfamiliar kitchen, and also a new culinary culture. Wendy should be proud of herself, and I’m sure she will enjoy every second of her stay at Le Manoir.”