The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts (RACA) has announced the three overall winners of its Annual Awards of Excellence (AAE).
Named last night at an awards ceremony at Claridge's, the winners were:
RACA Young Chef of the Year: Joel Gueller, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire
RACA Young Pastry Chef of the Year: Polly Chan, Yauatcha, London
RACA Young Waiter of the Year: Alexander Macleod, the Balmoral hotel, Edinburgh
The evening was hosted by John Williams, chairman of RACA, and Sergio Rebecchi, chairman of the AAE Service committee.
The winners received silver trophies (donated by Gordon Hogg and Finclass), Meyer Cookware, MAC Knives (donated by Continental Chef Supplies), a bursary worth £2,000, courtesy of the Savoy Educational Trust, and a day's work experience at the Fat Duck thanks to Heston Blumenthal, who is honorary president of RACA.
The gala dinner also celebrated a further 24 talented young chefs, pastry chefs and waiters, who successfully achieved the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Annual Award of Excellence 2016 in finals held in May and June.
- Jack Croft, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
- Ruth Hansom, the Ritz London
- Elly Wentworth, Lucknam Park hotel
- Hannah Bagshaw, Hakkasan
- Ethan Flack, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
- Irish Hacon, the Langham hotel
- Naomi Longfield, Hakkasan
- Faye Weatherburn, the Ritz London
- Rebecca Bauhofer, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles
- Ashley Best, the Ritz London
- Giuseppe Cola, the Ritz London
- Francesco De Santo, the Ritz London
- Lewis Dixon, Northcote Manor
- Daniel Dreiseitel, the Ritz London
- Emma Drummond, the Gleneagles hotel
- Melissa Fergus, the Fat Duck
- Laudy Gibba-Smith, L'Enclume
- Louis Gillibert, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
- Giuseppe Laboragine, Petrus
- Gerald Murati, the Ritz London
- Callum Rees, the Gleneagles hotel
- Gabriele Sorrentino, the Ritz London
- Dimitar Tanev, the French by Simon Rogan
- Laura Vernet, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
To achieve the award candidates had to attain a score of over 70% in the tasks set and judged by industry luminaries chaired by Williams.
Williams said: "I hope that through the Annual Awards of Excellence we can motivate and inspire the industry's young chefs, pastry chefs and waiters to undertake a career of training first themselves, and then others; and to look outside the workplace to wider industry and opportunities."
Sara Jayne Stanes, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, said: "The Annual Awards of Excellence remains at the core of the academy's education philosophy and was, in 1983 when it was launched, the first of the Academy's many contributions that have raised the bar and set standards for the industry for the past three decades."
Kitchen finalists had four hours to produce four portions of a starter, using ingredients from a mystery box; four portions of a veal dish plated on a flat with three garnishes and a sauce; and their own modern interpretation of a chocolate and orange dessert from the entry task each candidate prepared.
Dorian Janmaat, Young Chef of the Year 2015, said: "The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Awards of Excellence has an astonishing structure, whether it be equipment, knowledge of the judges or organisation of competitions; the support of the whole organisation is unprecedented and the rewards are just unbelievable. To not achieve the award on my first attempt in 2014 was upsetting at first but that gave me the courage and commitment to come back in 2015 and win overall with the highest score.
"I can say it was thanks to the feedback from the fantastic judges, who encouraged me to come back and enter again. I am so proud and happy to have listened; winning the RACA AAE Young Chef of the Year has proved that I have great potential - hard work and dedication pays off! I would like to thank Gary Jones and Raymond Blanc for their continued support, and excellent mentoring, as well as their generosity. I can only thank and sing the praises of this brilliant organisation. I can promise that I will nurture and support any future competitors from Le Manoir to make sure they achieve this brilliant accolade".
Pastry finalists had five-and-a-half hours to produce a decorated showpiece croquembouche of classical or freestyle shape; two Linzer tortes; and four portions of hot plated seasonal fruit soufflé.
Gabriella Cugno, Young Pastry Chef of the Year 2015, said: "I was completely overjoyed when I won the Annual Awards of Excellence. The hard work definitely paid off! The amount I learnt was incredible; doing this award has tested my skills and ability and has given me the drive to progress and learn even more. I am grateful to William Curley for his enduring support. This award is fantastic for young aspiring pastry chefs and I highly recommend it. If the opportunity comes along, do it!"
Service finalists were required to decant and describe wines to the judging panel, as well as set up and serve a three-course meal with wines and liqueurs to a table of two guest judges.
Thomas Borghi, Young Waiter of the Year 2015, said: "I feel extremely proud to have been awarded the Annual Awards of Excellence Young Waiter of the Year 2015. It is a great honour to have been recognised by the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts and the prestigious panel of judges. I really love my job at the Ritz and I am grateful to have the opportunity to learn from some of the best service professionals in the industry".