9th January 2006
Graduate Awards 2006
There was an extra reason to celebrate at the Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards ceremony lunch at The Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington, on Monday 11th September 2006.
Not only did five young chefs receive the news that they had passed the exam from the organisation’s patron, The Countess of Wessex, but this year recorded the highest pass rate that the Graduate Award scheme has seen in its four-year history.The five successful candidates welcomed on stage by Her Royal Highness were Anton Scoones, Oulton Hall, Shaun Dickens, Le Manior aux Quat Saisons, Andrew Hall, Executive Fine Dining, Canary Wharf, and William Horswill and Sophie Wright, both from Westminster Kingsway College. Each one had exceeded the tough 85% pass mark required and was presented with a trip to a Scottish fish farm courtesy of James Knight of Mayfair, a week’s study tour of a Villeroy and Boch china factory in Luxembourg, a year’s graduate membership to the Craft Guild of Chefs and a framed certificate.Sophie Wright, the only female in the group, also walked away with the title of Graduate Top Achiever, having scored the highest mark overall of 89%, to scoop a week’s work placement and dining experiences in Germany, sponsored by Enodis.The Graduate Awards, which take place at Thames Valley University, Westminster Kingsway College and Birmingham College each year, are open to chefs under 23 with three years experience regardless of qualifications. It comprises a theory paper as well as four hours of practical tests, in which candidates are asked to demonstrate various skills including advanced butchery and fishmongery.This year's skills tests was preparing a rabbit for sauté, and filleting a large lemon sole. In addition, the candidates were required to prepare four covers of the classical dish ‘sole bonne femme’.Of the 36 chefs that took the first part of the exam, 12 made it through to the final where they created a main course for four from a basket of mystery ingredients including rice, prunes, pancetta bacon, chicken livers and baby onions.Winner of the Graduate Top Achiever, Sophie Wright, comments: “With the mystery ingredients, I decided to go for a classic fusion of rabbit and prunes. I created a duo of rabbit with a stuffed loin of prune, chicken liver and herb farce, and braised rabbit in a prune and cream sauce, accompanied by a sautéed cabbage parcel, and braised rice with caramelised baby onions and crispy pancetta. I am absolutely delighted to win the Graduate Top Achiever Award and truly shocked.”Becoming this year’s Graduate Top Achiever stands Sophie in good stead for the launch of her and her partner’s own restaurant due to open in November. The yet to be named brasserie in Bethnal Green, will offer uncomplicated, wholesome food using locally sourced produce.Wishing Sophie, a City & Guilds student, every success in her career, Sally Messenger, general manager for the services industry at City & Guilds, comments: “The calibre of students in this year’s awards is exceptionally high and we need to continually encourage young talent such as Sophie into the industry. City & Guilds wishes Sophie every success in what appears to be a very exciting future.”Craft Guild of Chefs chairman and chair of the judges, Steve Munkley, states: “This year really saw the Graduate Awards come of age with more entries than ever before, each one of whom was focussed on the job in hand and got down to the tasks with the utmost professionalism. We even had three chefs scoring 100% in the fish preparation part of the exam.”He goes on to add: “The results from the mystery basket practical were exceptional and we saw 12 fascinating varieties of a chocolate fondant from the same recipe. It really was a breath of fresh air to see so many talented young chefs and to see how the standards had been raised from last year.”The remaining seven finalists were presented with personalised chefs jackets, cookery books, a year’s graduate membership to the Craft Guild of Chefs, a bottle of Pommery Champagne and a framed certificate. They were Adan Smith, Ritz Hotel, Andrew Hirst, Auberge du Lac, Daniel Firth, QueenWood Golf Club, James Baker, JSCSC, Jamie Atkinson, Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, Kevin Bennett, Eastwell Manor, and Mathew Wilkinson, Rudding Park Hotel.Oulton Hall was presented with the Employer’s Training Award, which is presented each year to the company which the Craft Guild of Chefs believes has done the most to help their employee get to the final.