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.