Following an intensive five hours in the kitchens of University College Birmingham last week, the Craft Guild of Chefs has revealed six young chefs achieved its Graduate Award 2018.
Regarded as one of the hardest skills tests in the industry, 14 chefs undertook the final kitchen or pastry exams after completing an online entry form and taking part in heats in the north and south. To join the Graduate Awards hall of fame, the chefs, aged 23 or under, had to achieve a pass mark of 85%.
Making the grade in the kitchen exam this year was Ben Cowley from Simpsons Restaurant, Jordon Powell who works at The Half Moon and Bronwen Jenkins from Royal Garden Hotel. Passing the pastry tests were Ieuan Davies from Pennyhill Park Hotel, Emma-Jayne Lawson who works at Northcote Manor and Sofia Petrova who is based at Ham Yard Hotel.
Each year the Craft Guild of Chefs announces the highest achiever in each category and this year, Ben Cowley from Simpsons Restaurant took the top spot alongside Ieuan Davies from Pennyhill Park Hotel in the pastry test.
2018 not only saw one of the highest number of entries into these awards but also two very special mentoring experiences. The kitchen Graduates spent two days in Somerset staying at the stunning North Cadbury Court and visiting a variety of farms and cheesemakers. Chefs were able to watch butchery, fish and dessert masterclasses to help them prepare for the final exam. On the pastry experience, finalists were shown the exam tasks before heading on a tour of Harrods kitchen and enjoying dinner at Roux at Parliament Square where they met former MasterChef: The Professionals winner, Steve Groves. He shared his experience, thoughts and advice with these inspired young chefs.
Founder of the Graduate Awards, Steve Munkley who is Vice-President of the Craft Guild of Chefs said: “This year we saw some of the highest scores we’ve ever seen in the butchery and fishmongery tests and I’m confident this is down to the mentor experience. It’s two-days of their careers the finalists won’t ever forget and whilst only a few chefs passed the overall exam, the development of basic skills during this process was exciting to see. Knowing that we are making a real difference to the level of raw culinary skills in the industry makes all the hard work worthwhile. Those who didn’t make the grade really should think about coming back next year and trying again, as so often we see chefs taking a few attempts to get through. It’s a high standard but when the achievers go on to take part in competitions such as Young National Chef of the Year it is absolutely key they are ready to do battle at the highest level.”
Chair of the Pastry Graduate Award Will Torrent added: “For me the one thing that has stood out beyond anything else is the personal development of these chefs. Yes, we tasted some delicious food that I would be happy to pay for, but I also watched young chefs push through difficulties during the five-hour exam and come out the other side stronger. We witnessed chefs take their time, remain focused on the end goal and not give up – all of which are skills only the best chefs have. Whatever the level of culinary competition, the lessons you learn when you don’t achieve are just as important, if not more, than those when you succeed.”
This year the Kitchen Mentor Award was presented to Peter Fiori, executive chef at Coutts Bank for the input he gave to Graduate Awards kitchen finalist, Isabel Wallace-Hadrill throughout the process. Nick Kimber from Ham Yard Hotel was awarded the Pastry Mentor Award for the advice and support he showed Pastry Graduate Award achiever, Sofia Petrova.
The Graduate Awards would not be possible without its sponsors and this year the event was supported by CCS, Reynolds, Meiko, City & Guilds, Villeroy & Boch, Savoy Educational Trust, Mars Foodservice, The London Meat Company, James Knight of Mayfair, Oranka, Quorn, Essential Cuisine, The Staff Canteen, Zenith, World Skills UK and Pan’Artisan.
Chefs can register their interest for the 2019 Graduate Awards by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by tweeting @Craft_Guild.