What’s it like to be a Graduate Award Highest Achiever?

IMG_20161013_215306In September 2016, Amber Francis from The Ritz received the Graduate Award and was recognised by examiners as the Highest Achiever. As entries are open for the 2017 Awards, we’ve been asking Amber to share her story as we discover what’s been happening since that exciting day.

It’s been pretty crazy since I achieved the Graduate Awards and was awarded the Highest Achiever Award. I can’t quite believe it was this time last year that I sent off my application, not even thinking that I would make it past the paper entries. It was an amazing experience and looking back I remember the week of the announcement in a daze of Twitter notifications and exciting emails. However, as soon as the dust settled, I was thrown straight back into the realities of the festive period. Anyone in the industry knows the pain of this!

Since receiving the award I have had the honour of being invited to several Craft Guild of Chefs events including the after-party of the National Chef of the Year (NCOTY) and Young National Chef of the Year (YNCOTY), where I had the opportunity to network among some of the best in the industry. I’ve also been involved in several events with YNCOTY winner, Ruth Hansom, which has been lots of fun and provided some great experiences.

FB_IMG_1490432298499

 

Life at work continues as normal. Developing and honing my skills is always at the forefront of my mind, but the Graduate Awards has given me an improved base knowledge to expand upon. I couldn’t believe how much I learnt; the awards really push you to develop as a professional. Since achieving the award I have also been lucky enough to enjoy some wonderful meals and have a few more planned for the coming months! What has been my favourite so far? That’s remaining a secret!

This month I am undertaking stagiaires at the WastED pop up at Selfridges on my days off. Add that to moving house last week and finishing my final year apprenticeship project, I’m a busy person! Working alongside Dan Barber and so many other talented chefs at WastED is incredible though, and the ethos behind the project is something that is dear to the hearts of many chefs. It’s certainly an eye opener!

IMG-20170213-WA0008

Also eye opening is the amount of work involved in moving house. I forgot what a palaver it can be. The fact that I’m moving in with two close friends makes it all worthwhile though. Our neighbours can hardly contain the excitement that three chefs have moved in next door and I believe thoughts of dinner parties and food gifts are already filling their minds. Little do they know that the reality is that we will probably never see them and we’ll be living off a staple of post-work beans on toast ourselves!

In a month’s time, I return to college for the final instalment of my Royal Academy of Culinary Arts apprenticeship; it’s a daunting prospect as three years of hard graft are coming to an end. The pressure is on to achieve well, but realistically most of that pressure comes from me! Those who know me well, know that nothing less than perfection is good enough, but working at The Ritz and the Graduate Awards have prepared me well.

It takes hard work to achieve the Graduate Award! It’s a cliché I know, but it’s true. During the months leading up to the exams I spent most of my days off in work practising and I was there before and after shifts honing my skills. But most importantly you must love your job and have a desire to push yourself and make yourself the best possible chef you can be. If you have that then what have you got to lose? You have everything to gain from entering so just do it and enter online today. The closing date for entries is in May but I’d recommend entering as soon as possible as then you can put it behind you until the next stage.

Amber Francis will be blogging again for the Craft Guild of Chef’s next month, so watch this space for more news from her.

Craft Guild releases expert entry advice ahead of deadline extension

Aaron DuffyFollowing last week’s call for mentors the Craft Guild of Chefs has extended the deadline for this year’s Graduate Awards. This includes entries for the first ever Pastry Graduate Award which launched earlier this year. Chefs aged 23 and under now have until Sunday 15th May to get their entries to the Craft Guild of Chefs’ Head Office.

From the entries received, there will be a North and South heat to find a maximum of 12 finalists who the judges think could make the grade this year. The heats will take place on Tuesday 28th June 2016.

To enter the Graduate Awards, chefs simply need to complete the paper entry form which includes details of a referee and a statement on what they think it takes to be a great chef.

Just 48 chefs have ever passed the Graduate Awards examination. To coincide with the deadline extension, members of this select group of chefs have been called upon by the Guild to share their own personal entry advice. Five previous graduates have come together to give their expert tips to this year’s entrants.

    1. “I feel very privileged to be one of only 48 graduates since the awards started. The awards saw me progress to do other competitions such as Young National Chef of the Year and also gave me confidence. My main advice is to practice. Practice in unfamiliar ovens and work areas so you’re prepared for anything. For the mystery element try getting your mentor to give you tasks from a random selection of ingredients to get you used to creating dishes on the spot.” Ruth Hansom, The Ritz
    2. “My advice would be to enjoy the experience, make friends and work hard for it. There is nothing worse than going into a competition stressed and it will affect the food you serve. I feel there is a lesson to be learned from everyone you work with, just remember to be like a sponge and accept all information and help from anyone who is willing to give their time to assist you.” Connor Godfrey, Junior Sous Chef, The Royal Garden Hotel
    3. “Having won both the Graduate Award and the Mentor Award my main bit of advice would be to really dedicate time to the award. You can never practice enough but keep it simple and concentrate on the basics – hot plates, seasoning, hot food and good balance of flavour. The award is a fantastic stepping stone for any chef to spring board their career, not only with work placements but also networking within the industry. I would highly recommend it!” Nick Sinclair, Executive Chef, Burford Bridge Hotel & Emlyn Restaurant
    4. “My advice to young chefs looking to enter is know your task and what you need to be doing each and every moment. It’s not about showing off or trying something off the wall. It’s about showing you know how to work with food and get the best out of amazing produce.” Anton Scoones, Commercial Development Head Chef, Leeds City College
    5. “Before the next stage, work on the practical activities and read as much as you can for the theory elements. There’s lots of videos you can watch on YouTube for things like the butchery skills tasks. You can actually learn a lot from those.” James Goodyear, Maaemo, Chef De Partie

This year’s awards sees two big changes with the announcement of the first ever Pastry Graduate. This is a completely separate award so even a chef who has already been through the main kitchen element can enter the Pastry Award.

It’s also been announced that former National Chef of the Year, Russell Bateman will take over as Chair of Examiners. To enter the awards simply download the entry form from the Craft Guild of Chefs’ website http://craftguildofchefs.org/cgoc-competitions-landing/graduate-awards and return the completed form by post or email before Sunday 15th May 2016.

Have you got what it takes to impress Will Torrent?

Will Torrent

Will Torrent, author of Afternoon Tea at Home and Judge of the Graduate Awards

With the new Craft Guild of Chefs’ Graduate Pastry Award deadline looming we’ve been catching up with Will Torrent, author of the bestselling Afternoon Tea at Home, who is one of the judges in this award. He shares some of his thoughts on the Graduate Awards and what he’ll be looking for at the heats and final exam. Will is Consultant Pastry Chef for Waitrose.

  1. Why does the industry need this new Pastry Graduate Award?

I think it’s really important here in the UK. When I went to the USA I was completely struck by how they would have the names of both the Executive Chef and the Pastry Chef on menus. Restaurants over there place such an importance on pastry. We’ve got some way to go in Britain and awards like the Graduate Awards truly bring this to the forefront and will give pastry chefs the recognition they deserve.

We’re always hearing about a shortage of chefs, especially pastry chefs, and I believe it’s time the UK stepped up and worked together to showcase the talent we have and that it’s an exciting culinary route to take.

Historically, the Graduate Awards have done amazing things for young chefs and I’m sure this new Pastry Award will do the same. With Bake Off Crème de la Crème in the spotlight, and pastry chefs like Cherish Finden and Benoit Blin showcasing UK talent, the timing of this first Graduate Award couldn’t be any better.

  1. Why did you decide to get involved as one of the judges?

I’ve been very involved in the work of the Craft Guild of Chefs for some time and am proud to be one of their new board members. I’ve been working with Yolande Stanley who is organising this with Steve Munkley. She has instilled in me how as a senior chef it’s vital we encourage young pastry chefs to grow and develop. The Graduate Awards provide a platform to develop skills and I want to be part of the team that helps find, encourage and develop the young stars of the pastry industry.

  1. Who should be entering these awards?

Anyone working within a pastry kitchen and anyone who has a passion for wanting to learn and for testing themselves. I want to discover pastry chefs who are willing to go the extra mile and who want to be the next Cherish or Benoit. Britain has become a force to be reckoned with in the culinary world, but we always need to be looking ahead to 10 to 15 years’ time. This is when today’s young talent is on the senior stage and competing with chefs from around the world.

  1. We’re looking for mentors for the Graduate Awards, what support could a mentor give a potential pastry graduate?

It’s important to have a great head chef who wants to push their pastry chef to be the best they can be. Pastry chefs have so much creativity and flair but sometimes we can go so far ahead of ourselves. Head chefs and other mentors are brilliant for reigning some of that in a little bit. In the Graduate Awards it’s important young chefs don’t run before they can walk as we’re looking for some classic skills done to absolute perfection.

  1. What can young chefs do to help prepare for the next stage?

I think as judges and fellow pastry chefs we want to be surprised by new techniques. I love to be wowed but I don’t want chefs to underestimate the power of classic dishes done perfectly. Don’t be tripped up by taking your creativity too far as the Graduate Awards are all about testing skills. Many of these tasks are about trial and error so practise really is key so you can learn from your mistakes. You need to show us you can deliver modern flavours and creativity but with a sound base knowledge.

  1. How do you enter?

The closing date for the Graduate Awards has just been extended until the 15th May and it’s really quick and simple to enter. You just need to download the entry form from the Guild’s website, complete the details and ask your head chef or other senior chef to be a referee. If you get through to the heats, then the hard work truly begins. However, it’s worth the effort as you could be the first ever pastry chef to join the Graduate Awards Hall of Fame and the opportunities from there are endless.

Craft Guild calls for Graduate Award mentors to step up

The Craft Guild of Chefs is launching an appeal for mentors in its Graduate Awards scheme. The Guild is calling on established chefs to get behind the young talent in their kitchens and support them in working towards one of the industry’s most impressive accolades.

Since the Graduate Awards began in 2003, just 48 graduates have achieved the pass mark, making it a very select group of talented chefs who hold the achievement. Steve Munkley, vice-president of the Craft Guild of Chefs, explained how having a strong, supportive mentor can make all the difference to a young chef’s chances of becoming a graduate:

“In the first instance, even just the nomination can provide a massive confidence boost for a young chef as it really shows how much you believe in them and recognise their potential. So, don’t wait to be asked to be a mentor, be proactive and encourage a young chef in your kitchen to enter the Graduate Awards.

“When it comes to helping them through the examination process, the simple truth is that the chefs who’ve put the most effort in will be the most successful. A supportive mentor who sets aside time to help a young chef or even adapts the menu to allow them to practice with a particular ingredient, will really be giving their chances a huge boost.”

This year’s chair of examiners Russell Bateman was keen to add that being a mentor came with its own benefits, he added: “Being a mentor to a young chef entering the Graduate Awards is incredibly rewarding and brings with it a lot of recognition. That’s why we also have the Mentor Award, to acknowledge those senior chefs who really get behind their mentees and inspire them.”

To coincide with the call for mentors, Russell Bateman has worked closely with the Craft Guild of Chefs to compile what he believes are the five biggest benefits senior chefs can expect from being a mentor.

1. Your chance to take an active role in raising industry standards
Talk of the skills gap is widespread in the industry. The Graduate Awards seek to address this with a heavy focus on skills, including butchery, fishmongery and new for this year, pastry. By mentoring a chef and helping them develop these skills, you really will be making a difference to the future of the profession and raising industry standards. The young chefs in your kitchen are the future of this industry.

2. You’ll have a stronger team in your own kitchen
The young chefs who take part in the Graduate Awards learn so much. Whether they go on to meet the pass mark or not, they all come away with enhanced skills and improved knowledge. Helping a young chef in your kitchen through the process will ultimately mean you’ll have a stronger more competent team working for you.

3. Recognition and positive PR for you and your restaurant
Having a young chef on your staff who meets the Graduate Award standard is a real accolade and one that will not go without recognition. The profile of your restaurant will be raised as part of the PR campaign surrounding the Graduate Awards. Plus, many previous finalists have gone on to win Young National Chef of The Year and that really attracts industry and media attention for your establishment.

4.

The Craft Guild of Chefs is launching an appeal for mentors in its Graduate Awards scheme. The Guild is calling on established chefs to get behind the young talent in their kitchens and support them in working towards one of the industry’s most impressive accolades.

Since the Graduate Awards began in 2003, just 48 graduates have achieved the pass mark, making it a very select group of talented chefs who hold the achievement. Steve Munkley, vice-president of the Craft Guild of Chefs, explained how having a strong, supportive mentor can make all the difference to a young chef’s chances of becoming a graduate:

“In the first instance, even just the nomination can provide a massive confidence boost for a young chef as it really shows how much you believe in them and recognise their potential. So, don’t wait to be asked to be a mentor, be proactive and encourage a young chef in your kitchen to enter the Graduate Awards.

“When it comes to helping them through the examination process, the simple truth is that the chefs who’ve put the most effort in will be the most successful. A supportive mentor who sets aside time to help a young chef or even adapts the menu to allow them to practice with a particular ingredient, will really be giving their chances a huge boost.”

This year’s chair of examiners Russell Bateman was keen to add that being a mentor came with its own benefits, he added: “Being a mentor to a young chef entering the Graduate Awards is incredibly rewarding and brings with it a lot of recognition. That’s why we also have the Mentor Award, to acknowledge those senior chefs who really get behind their mentees and inspire them.”

To coincide with the call for mentors, Russell Bateman has worked closely with the Craft Guild of Chefs to compile what he believes are the five biggest benefits senior chefs can expect from being a mentor.

1. Your chance to take an active role in raising industry standards
Talk of the skills gap is widespread in the industry. The Graduate Awards seek to address this with a heavy focus on skills, including butchery, fishmongery and new for this year, pastry. By mentoring a chef and helping them develop these skills, you really will be making a difference to the future of the profession and raising industry standards. The young chefs in your kitchen are the future of this industry.

2. You’ll have a stronger team in your own kitchen
The young chefs who take part in the Graduate Awards learn so much. Whether they go on to meet the pass mark or not, they all come away with enhanced skills and improved knowledge. Helping a young chef in your kitchen through the process will ultimately mean you’ll have a stronger more competent team working for you.

3. Recognition and positive PR for you and your restaurant
Having a young chef on your staff who meets the Graduate Award standard is a real accolade and one that will not go without recognition. The profile of your restaurant will be raised as part of the PR campaign surrounding the Graduate Awards. Plus, many previous finalists have gone on to win Young National Chef of The Year and that really attracts industry and media attention for your establishment.

4. You’ll become a better leader
Previous mentors have all said how fulfilling they found the role and how much it taught them about themselves as leaders. By mentoring a young chef through the entry process, you’ll learn a lot about how to get the best from someone and come away with valuable leadership skills to take back to the kitchen.

5. You could come away with a coveted award
The Craft Guild is keen to recognise the important contribution that mentors make. By mentoring a young chef in the Graduate Awards you have the chance to be named as the winner of the Mentor Award, which will be announced at a glittering awards event in September.

The Graduate Awards are open for entries now from chefs under the age of 23 and mentors are being actively encouraged to encourage the young chefs in their kitchen to enter before the closing date on 6th May 2016. More information on entering can be found here. 

Previous mentors have all said how fulfilling they found the role and how much it taught them about themselves as leaders. By mentoring a young chef through the entry process, you’ll learn a lot about how to get the best from someone and come away with valuable leadership skills to take back to the kitchen.

5. You could come away with a coveted award
The Craft Guild is keen to recognise the important contribution that mentors make. By mentoring a young chef in the Graduate Awards you have the chance to be named as the winner of the Mentor Award, which will be announced at a glittering awards event in September.

The Graduate Awards are open for entries now from chefs under the age of 23 and mentors are being actively encouraged to encourage the young chefs in their kitchen to enter before the closing date on 6th May 2016. More information on entering can be found here.

Craft Guild Banquet Brings 50th Celebrations to a Close

CGC is 50 1Five chefs who have made a real mark over the past 50 years were recognised at a banquet thrown by the Craft Guild of Chefs to bring its golden anniversary year celebrations to a close.

Steven Scuffell, Pauline Tucker, the late Winnie Myers, Ian Jaundoo and Giovanni Fontabasso all won an award for their outstanding contribution to the industry for each of the decades the Guild has been running at the Shakespeare Globe Theatre event (21/10).

Each winner received a trophy and a personalised knife set courtesy of I O SHEN, presented by HRH The Countess of Wessex and Craft Guild national chairman Christopher Basten.

Attended by 260 guests made up of Craft Guild members and business partners, the glittering celebration included a ‘dine through the decades’, five-course meal designed and prepared by a brigade of the Guild’s finest and comprising 60s-inspired canapés, prawn cocktail, Babycham sorbet, shoulder of lamb with fondant potatoes and roast vegetables, and egg and soldier.

Christopher said the banquet was the most wonderful way to bring the Guild’s 50th anniversary celebrations to a close. “The night was absolutely fantastic, the chance for everyone to get together and celebrate the achievements of our association whilst having a bit of fun, dancing to the brilliant Marshall Band and even a game of pass the parcel,” he said.

“The banquet itself went down a storm, especially the surprise appearance from the singing waiters, and while the menu was simple, it reflected the last five decades to a ‘T’.

“We also got to mark the many achievements of an incredible chef from the five decades the Guild has been running. The late, great Winnie Myers is, sadly, no longer with us, however, we were delighted to have her two nieces collect her award on her behalf.”

The banquet was just one of the highlights of this year’s 50th celebrations, marking a momentous milestone for the Guild as the largest chefs’ association in the UK, staunch supporter of education and the advancement of culinary art and science across all sectors.

For more information, visit www.craftguildofchefs.org / follow us on Twitter at @craft_guild.

Profiles of the 50th anniversary awards winners:

  • Steve Scuffell – award sponsored by Speciality Breads

For many years, Steve has given up his time for the Craft Guild, in the early years helping head up The National Chef of the Year as well as heading up his two restaurants. One of his greatest traits is his ability to just ‘get on with it’, never one to say no, always there to help the younger chefs, whether it be through training, coaching or just some plain simple advice.

During the years of 1999–2001, he was Chairman of the Craft Guild, for what was then a division of the Cookery and Food Association, again leading the Guild through tough times, but for the Guild coming out so much better for it. Even now, he actively supports the work that the Guild does and is currently the Chairman of the Vice Presidents Council, heading up World Skills for the Guild, still taking an active role in National Chef of the Year.

  • Pauline Tucker – award sponsored by Meiko UK

Pauline can often be seen at large chef competitions checking chefs into various competition classes, telling them where to go how to go and basically getting them organised. Pauline joined what was then the Cookery and Food Association as a sweet 16 year old, and worked her way through the Committee of Management to become National Chairman in 1994-1996.

An active member both nationally and locally within the London division, Pauline is still heavily involved in the administration of the Wessex Culinaire competition and along with Steve Scuffell, heads up the Guild’s organisation of World Skills.

  • Winnie Myers – award sponsored by Bunzl Lockhart Catering Equipment

After entering the culinary profession in 1934, Winnie made her life not only in cooking, but being a member of the CFA and then the Craft Guild. Winnie first started as a Wren and was posted to HMS Collingswood, going on to work at Greenwich Navel College where she met Queen Mary, going on to prepare the Queen’s silver wedding anniversary dinner in 1972.

In 1952, Winnie joined the Cookery & Food Association and in 1975, the Craft Guild, later became the first female to be elected onto the committee. Whilst she was at the House of Lords as Head Cook, where she remained for some 26 years until her retirement at 61, she became the National Chairman of the CFA and led the association through some great times, visiting as far afield as New Zealand and Australia to see the divisions out there.

  • Ian Jaundoo – award sponsored by Bidvest Foodservice

Ian has been such a keen supporter of the Guild for many years, with so much of his work going unnoticed, working within the education sector of the industry is often seen as the less sexy and glamorous part of catering. But this is where it all begins for so many young people, and Ian encourages each and every student to fulfil their every potential.

Ian was awarded a fellowship to the Craft Guild several years ago, and as ever, he dedicates this all to Liverpool Community College where he still lectures. He is often seen putting on charity dinners and giving much more not just to the industry but to the Craft Guild as well. His infectious smile and laugh keep all going even during the long hours in a kitchen.

  • Giovanni Fontabasso – award sponsored by British Premium Meats

Giovanni came to England from Italy in 1960 and joined the Cookery & Food Association and Craft Guild in 1976. He was one of the youngest chefs working for what was then Trust House Forte, before moving within the group to Gardener Merchant, where he stayed for 22 years. Although he loved being a chef, he took a slight turn in 1986 and went to Charter House School as catering manager, where he stayed until his retirement in 1996.

Never being one to let the grass grow under him, Giovanni was always a key player in the Surrey division of the CFA, and was instrumental in its success through the years, heading up the division many times. Elected onto the main committee, he was National Chairman from 1996-1998 and acted as Senior Trustee for many years, overseeing many challenges. Even after retiring, Giovanni still plays a major role in the activities of the Guild as a Vice President and supports the Rotary Club of Great Britain with any food related projects.

‘Dine through the Decades’ sponsors:

  • British Premium meats supplied the lamb for the main course
  • Bunzl Lockhart supplied the crockery and cutlery
  • Malsar Kest supplied the table linen and napkins
  • Speciality Breads supplied the bread for the tables
  • Infusions4chefs created the dessert
  • Wenlock Springs supplied the table water

Craft Guild of Chefs’ 50th Birthday Awards

CGC is 50 1We have made some very special presentations at our birthday banquet this evening. Here’s a little bit more information on the worthy recipients from our CEO, Andrew Green.

Steve Scuffell

For many years Steve has given up his time for the Craft Guild, in the early years helping head up National Chef of the Year as well as heading up his 2 restaurants. One of Steve’s greatest traits is his ability to just ‘get on with it’, never one to say no, always there to help the younger chefs, whether it be through training, coaching or just some plain simple advice. Steve has given up so many weeks during the summer, for in excess of 10 years he ran Summer Schools in the Berkshire area; these were designed to help young people learn how to cook, give them life skills and confidence. These would take much time, and Steve would happily do this for the satisfaction of knowing that these kids had nothing else to do and wanted to learn, much of this work often under the radar. During the years of 1999 – 2001 he was Chairman of the Craft Guild, for what was then a division of the Cookery and Food Association, again leading the Guild through tough times, but for the Guild coming out so much better for it.

Even now he actively supports the work that the Guild does, he is currently the Chairman of the Vice Presidents Council, heading up World Skills for the Guild, still taking an active role in National Chef of the Year – just where does he get his time and energy from!

Pauline Tucker

Pauline can often be seen at many large chef competitions checking chefs into various competition classes, telling them where to go and how to go and basically getting them organised! Having said this, you will not meet a more focused person, someone who believes in what the Craft Guild is about and why we should be at the forefront. Pauline joined what was then the Cookery and Food Association in 1969 as a sweet 16 year old.  It was then many people started to sit up and take notice, always happy to be vocal, and she still is, Pauline worked her way through the Committee of Management to finally be National Chairman in 1994-1996. I am more than sure that even in those days she will have controlled the men around the table!

Pauline has been an active member both nationally and locally within the London division, and within the London division still hosts their regular bi-monthly meetings, over the years having also chaired the division on a number of occasions. At present she is still heavily involved in the administration of the Wessex competition and along with Steve Scuffell heads up organisation of World Skills.

CGC is 50 2Winnie Myers

After entering the culinary profession in 1934, Winnie made it her life not only in cooking but being a member of the CFA and then the Craft Guild.

Winnie first started as a Wren and was posted to HMS Collingswood, she once mentioned that ‘the head cook wouldn’t take a woman in his galley; it wasn’t until all the men were drafted out to sea that they were forced to have me’. Typical Winnie, always prepared to wait her turn. But why did she join the wrens rather than one of the other services, when asked this previously her answer was really quite so simple, it had the best looking uniform!

She went onto work at Greenwich Navel College where she met Queen Mary; this was one of her many occasions with royalty, one of the others being when she prepared the Queens silver wedding anniversary dinner in 1972.

It was in 1952 that after leading a wrens team to a gold medal win at Hotelympia that Winnie joined the Cookery & Food Association, and not until 1975 that she was invited to join the Craft Guild, the reason for this was that she did not think that they ‘would take a woman’. Winnie later became the first female to be elected onto the committee.

Whilst she was at the House of Lords as Head Cook, where she remained for some 26 years until her retirement at 61, she became the National Chairman of the CFA and led the association through some great times, visiting as far afield as New Zealand and Australia to see the divisions that we had out there.

Ian Jaundoo

Ian has been such a keen supporter of the Guild for many years, with so much of his work going unnoticed. Working within the education sector of the industry is often seen as the less sexy and glamorous part of catering. But this is where it all begins for so many young people, their first taste of this great industry, the chance to make their mark in life and Ian encourages each and every student to fulfil their potential.

His involvement to the Craft Guild has been invaluable over many decades, often driving down from his home in Liverpool to London for a meeting, to attend an AGM, nothing is too much for Ian.

Ian was awarded a fellowship to the Craft Guild several years ago, and as ever he dedicates this all to Liverpool Community College where he still lectures. He is often seen putting on charity dinners and giving much more not just to the industry but to the Craft Guild as well. So much so that he has brought down a handful of students from Liverpool today to help cook tonight’s banquet dinner – his thought behind this as ever was to give them as much experience as he can, not just about catering but about life.

His infectious smile and laugh keep all going even during the long hours in a kitchen.

Giovanni Fontabasso

Giovanni came to England from Italy way back in 1960, and he joined the Cookery & Food Association and Craft Guild in 1976. Giovanni trained as a chef at South Sea College in Portsmouth and gained his City & Guilds 152. Giovanni was one of the youngest chefs working for what was then Trust House Forte, before moving within the group to Gardener Merchant, where he stayed from 1964 – 1986 some 22 years. Although he loved being a Chef he took a slight turn in 1986 and went to Charter House School as catering manager, where he stayed until his retirement in 1996.

Never being one to let the grass grow under him Giovanni was always a key player in the Surrey division of the CFA, and was instrumental in its success through the years, heading up the division many times. For Giovanni he wanted to do even more, he was elected onto the main committee and became National Chairman from 1996 – 1998 still carrying on with his Surrey duties as well as new National responsibilities. Added to this Giovanni acted as Senior Trustee for many years, overseeing many challenges.

Even since his retirement Giovanni has been as active as ever, still playing a major role in the activities of the Guild as a Vice President and supporting the Rotary Club of Great Britain with any food related projects.

Skill, ingenuity and coffee all on show at the NCOTY final

Ian McDonald is B2B commercial manager at Nespresso UK, sponsor of the National Chef of the Year Award and he shares his thoughts on being part of this year’s event.

Ian McDonald from NCOTY sponsor Nespresso

Ian McDonald from NCOTY sponsor Nespresso

I had the pleasure of seeing eight of the UK’s finest chefs in their element at the Restaurant Show last week, battling it out to take the prestigious National Chef of the Year title.   A huge congratulations is in order for all competitors for getting so far in the competition, and particularly to Larry Jayasekara whose work so impressed the judges.   His award-winning dishes – which were put together in just two hours – included a native lobster starter, loin of venison main and chocolate coffee cream dessert.

Each of the eight competing chefs was given a selection of Nespresso Grands Cru coffee to use alongside other mystery ingredients in their dishes, and Larry used this to great effect in his chocolate coffee cream dish. Coffee may not be the first ingredient that comes to mind when planning a new signature recipe, but is being increasingly used as a bold and complex flavour that can bring out the best in a range of meals. The Nespresso Grand Cru range interacts particularly well with food and can be combined throughout the meal to compliment both sweet and savoury dishes. From a coffee glazed short rib of beef, to coffee crème brûlée, chefs have found innovative new ways to put coffee’s distinct flavours and aromas to good use.

As well as its use as an ingredient, coffee is a fantastic accompaniment to food and has been served at restaurants for many years. This has been even more prevalent recently as coffee has surged in popularity, with demand for premium coffee particularly high. Restaurant goers are increasingly looking for quality coffee to accompany or round off their meal, and our dedicated Grand Cru collection features 11 Grands Crus each with distinct aroma and taste portfolios to cater to a range of tastes and pair with a range of foods. For example, milk-based coffee pairs particularly with chocolate desserts, while a more intense espresso can work alongside savoury dishes.

Chefs can access these blends through a diverse choice of professional Nespresso machines which are designed for use either in the kitchen or at the bar. The portfolio expands to four machines, each with their own features to respond to individual business needs. The latest addition to the family the Aguila 220 was launched at The Restaurant Show and is ideal for restaurants who want to serve outstanding quality coffee where bar and kitchen space and recently welcomed its newest addition, , to support restaurants, hotels, pubs and bars where space is at a premium.

This year’s NCOTY was a fantastic event and showed once again how a range of ingredients – including coffee – can be used to create delicious, award-winning dishes.

 

Junior Compassionate Cook 2015!

This competition is open to children aged between six or twelve (entrants must be supervised by an adult) and is a fun way to get kids inspired in cooking! All they have to do is make a five minute video demonstrating how to cook a simple recipe using RSPCA Assured – and if you can Fairtrade-labelled – ingredients.

Hamley’s toy stores are offering two winners toy hampers worth £300 as well as four smaller hampers for four runners up. The winners and their schools will also each receive a range of children’s cookware. So if you know any children who love making good food, tell them to get cooking!

You never know, it could produce the next Jamie Oliver – James Martin – Cyrus Todiwala or Prue Leith!

Visit https://www.rspcaassured.org.uk/get-involved/junior-compassionate-cook for the full lowdown

Danny Hoang announced Young National Chef of the Year 2016

Competition celebrates the rising stars of the chef world

Danny Hoang from Colette’s at The Grove in Rickmansworth was named Young National Chef of the Year 2016 in the UK’s most prestigious chef competition, following a tense final at The Restaurant Show in London’s Olympia yesterday.

Winning the Craft Guild of Chefs’ Young National Chef of the Year title is a huge boost for any young chef’s career and Danny joins a growing list of accomplished young chefs who are now working in some of the UK’s top kitchens.

Danny competed against seven talented young finalists in a challenge which gave the chefs two hours to produce a three course menu for two using oven ready quail for the starter, a main course of fresh hake and their own take on bread and butter pudding for dessert.

Danny’s starter was quail leg and breast, watercress and parsley sauce, hay-baked baby beetroots and nasturtium and his main; seared hake, baby leeks, vinaigrette of sea vegetables, mussels and celeriac, beet batter scraps, mussel cream sauce. His dessert was lightly spiced bread and butter pudding with vanilla ice-cream and malt custard, pickled blackberries and Braeburn apples. The menu was deemed a worthy winner by the judges who included: Mark Sargeant, Alyn Williams, Christopher Basten, Sophie Mitchell, Julie Walsh, Ben Tish and Brad McDonald.

Danny Young from Northcote Manor in Langho came a close runner up with Ruth Hansom of The Ritz London in third place.

The winner and runners up will be taken to a food trends study trip to Scotland by headline sponsor, KNORR. KNORR has also invited all the finalists to Loch Goil – a stunning five star venue in Scotland for a culinary study tour and a range of outdoor activities.

As well as the industry recognition that the title provides, Danny Hoang also collects an exclusively designed winner’s plate from sponsors Churchill China and £500 worth of product, £1,250 voucher to spend within the Lockharts’ Product Range, a unique gastronomic trip to one of the world’s top restaurants courtesy of Lockhart Catering Equipment and £1,500 worth of activity voucher from KNORR.

The remaining finalists were:

Arthur Quinn, The Punchball Inn

Elly Wentworth, Manor House Hotel, Castle Combe,

Connor Godfrey, Wiltons Restaurant

Ray Steplin, House of Commons

Victoria Scupham, The Royal Household

David Mulcahy, Vice President of the Craft Guild of Chefs and organiser of the competition says, “Young National Chef of the Year is a fantastic platform for young chefs and the experience alone ensures that they begin their career on a high. The competition has once again highlighted the outstanding young talent that exists in our country at the moment.  Each of the finalists cooked tremendously well and has set the bar high for the next generation of chefs. Danny Hoang’s dishes were exceptionally well thought out and executed but all the finalists should be very proud of their performance.”

Mark Sargeant, Young National Chef of the Year Ambassador, adds: “It’s an honour to be an ambassador for Young National Chef of the Year. Having won a competition in a similar guise in 1996, I know what it means to have the accolade at such a young age.

Winning makes a huge difference to your learning and enables you to build your social skills and grow your confidence. It can even lead you to your next job. I’m a big fan of these young chefs who are so keen and hungry. The standard of the competition goes from strength to strength and I may say it every year but these young chefs aren’t far off giving the senior chefs a run for their money!”

For more information visit www.craftguildofchefs.org or follow @Craft_Guild #YNCOTY on Twitter.

 

Larry Jayasekara from Gordon Ramsay Holdings secures the UK’s most Coveted Chef Title

National Chef of the Year Winner 2016 Announced

Larry Jayasekara, sous chef at Gordon Ramsay Holdings, was yesterday announced as the Craft Guild of Chefs’National Chef of the Year 2016, the UK’s most sought after chef prize.

The Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year is the largest and most prestigious chef competition in the UK and the final was watched by more than 100 hospitality professionals and students at The Restaurant Show in London’s Olympia. The chefs were given just two hours to produce four covers consisting of a starter and main using seafood and meat selected from a mystery basket. They had to create a hot or cold dessert using chocolate and coffee.

Larry joins an esteemed club of winners, which includes Ramsay himself, David Everitt- Matthias, Alyn Williams, Mark Sargeant and many more who have gone on to gain industry-wide recognition and achieve ambitious career goals thanks to their success in the competition.

Second place in the competition went to Paul Foster from Mallory Court and in third place was Martin Carabott from the The Royal Automobile Club.

The remaining finalists were:

Adam Handling, Head Chef, Adam Handling at Caxton

Andrew Ditchfield, Pastry Chef, House of Commons

Lawrence McCarthy, Sous Chef, The Ledbury Restaurant

Luciano Lucioli, Head Chef, Marks & Spencers Headquarters (Lusso – CH&Co)

Mark Kempson, Head Chef, Kitchen W8

Larry’s menu of Plancha native lobster, leek, red pepper, Roast loin of venison, cavelo nero, blackberries, Chocolate coffee cream, pan roasted pear greatly impressed the judging panel which once again comprised some of Britain’s most accomplished chefs. This year they were led by chair of judges Clare Smyth and included Alyn Williams, Ben Tish, Claude Bosi, Daniel Clifford, James ‘Jocky’ Petrie, Sat Bains and Stephen Terry.

As well as the career defining benefits associated with winning National Chef of the Year, Larry also collected the winner’s medal, £1,250 to spend within Lockhart’s product range, a unique gastronomic trip to one of the world’s top restaurants courtesy of Lockhart Catering Equipment, a £1,500 activity voucher courtesy of KNORR and an exclusively designed winner’s plate from Churchill.

David Mulcahy, Vice President of the Craft Guild of Chefs and organiser of the competition says,

“The National Chef of the Year is a major career boost for the winning chef and the title is coveted by chefs throughout the UK. Today the judges felt that the quality of all the finalists’ dishes had risen significantly. They were extremely focused and all the dishes extremely well executed. It was a much closer competition that in previous years and it was fantastic to see and taste so many delicious dishes.”

Clare Smyth, chair of judges, commented, “We knew that standards would be high this year and we’ve had an amazing final. It’s great to have so many fantastic chefs entering and whilst we’ve had some fantastic finals I think this really was the best ever.

The desserts particularly were the best desserts there have ever been in the competition. The top three were really close but thanks to having such incredible judges, each with a different opinion, the results balanced out and the best chef won.”

For more information visit: www.craftguildofchefs.org or follow @Craft_Guild #NCOTY on Twitter.