In 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.
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!
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.