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12th April 2013

Autumn 2011: Full marks

Written by: Admin
Blood, sweat and tears are all part of the Graduate Award examinations which this year saw more names added to the roll of honour.
Another year and another four young talented chefs have been added to the growing Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards roll of honour.

Daniel Beech, chef de partie at Simon Radley@The Chester Grosvenor & Spa; Rosa Fothergill, chef de partie at Rhinefield House Hotel, Brockenhurst; and Chris Munroe, chef de partie at the Royal Garden Hotel achieved the 85% pass mark, while Rositsa Nikolova, commis chef at the House of Commons was the highest achiever with a score of 87%.

Now in its ninth year, the exams put working chefs up to the age of 23 through a range of skill tests. This year 26 chefs took part in the regional heats held at University College Birmingham and the University of West London – the highest ever number of entrants.

This was whittled down to the 11 finalists who took the exams at Westminster Kingsway College in London on September 1. The final comprises a 30 minute theory exam to determine their knowledge about food and a practical exam to test their skills in butchery and fishmongery.

They then had to produce a dish from a mystery basket of ingredients, a classic meat dish – pan seared rib eye steak with sauce béarnaise, game chips, grilled tomato and fresh watercress to serve four portions, and a classic dessert – fresh fruit savarin with chantilly cream for eight portions.

Unfortunately on the day of the final, Mateusz Mitka, chef de partie at the Yew Lodge Hotel in Kegworth, had to stand down after a knife injury ruled him out of competing.

However Craft Guild vice president and exams organiser Steve Munkley says because it was an unfortunate accident, he would automatically be included in next year’s final.

Munkley says that this year the cooking went back to “old school” and having to make everything from scratch really tested them. For example the savarin, which wasn’t a dish everyone would have made before, resulted in two tasting “as good as it looked – a good dough with bubbles and the spoon melting into the mix”.

The finalists were honoured at a special awards lunch at the Royal Garden Hotel in London on September 6, which was given a special thank you in the santé du chef by Craft Guild vice chairman Christopher Basten.

The 2010 highest achiever Jack Allibone gave an insight into his past year and the experiences he had on his study trips. Allibone, who is currently with the Galvin brothers at Galvin La Chapelle, says the opportunity to work with them came about because of the awards and he thanks them for helping him to learn so much more about cooking.

“The Graduate Awards open a lot of doors for us. For those who haven’t done it, do it, and for those who didn’t get it this time, try again,” he says.

The 2011 graduates won a study tour to Luxembourg with Villeroy & Boch to visit its factory and see how its prestigious tableware is made and experience the country’s cuisine, and a fishing trip courtesy of James Knight of Mayfair to learn more about sustainable fishing.

As the highest achiever Nikolova received an additional prize of an exclusive UK break for two courtesy of Warner Leisure Hotels & Coastal Villages to take any time during the next year.

All the finalists received a year’s membership of the Craft Guild, a personalised chef’s jacket, a bottle of Pommery champagne, and a knife from Robert Welch Designs.

They also received a £100 voucher from Chris Galvin, chef patron of Galvin Restaurants, to enjoy a meal at Galvin Bistrot, which he would cook for them.

This year the employers trophy for excellence in training, which goes to the person who has mentored and supported their chef during the training for the exams, went to Fergus Martin, executive chef of Wyboston Lakes in Bedfordshire. He mentored Claire Willett, who collected the award on his behalf.

According to the judges, the heats this year were fantastic, with high quality results, and Galvin, who once again chaired the judging panel, added that in the final they all started really well and were very professional.

He says that everyone in the final is a winner and he praised their mentors for helping them to train for the exams. Commenting on the new graduates he says: “To get the percentage required is a very special milestone in your life going forward.”

Most of the chefs would have thought that they wouldn’t be given a rib of beef because it’s too expensive and this wasn’t the case, he says.

“But most of our suppliers prepare hundreds a day and are willing to take you in. If you can’t practise at work, go to them and try it. Be inquisitive and learn something every day. If you didn’t make it today, try, try and try again as I did for many competitions.”

Munkley gave a special thank you to the loyal supporters of the awards. “Without the continued support of our sponsors, we would not be able to let them progress,” he says.

Including the 2011 graduates, there are now 27 chefs on the roll of honour and Munkley believes the awards were “a piece of the jigsaw in their careers” and the new graduates should be delighted and proud of their achievements.

“The final was certainly a reflection of all the hard work and effort that these young chefs have put in. The Graduate Awards say yes, I’m making great strides up the career ladder.

These young chefs have now been verified by the best chefs in the industry, and what a cracking endorsement that is to have on your CV.”