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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.