Five ambitious young chefs have been awarded with the Craft Guild of Chefs' Graduate Award.
The awards were announced virtually today, following a socially distanced final exam at the University of West London last Tuesday (8 December).
Robert McCreery Breen, Connor Anthony Bird and Stephen Mark Naylor all passed the kitchen and larder exam, with Naylor being presented with the Highest Achiever award.
Lillian Savage and Ranna Ameer passed the pastry exam and were jointly awarded the Highest Achiever Award in pastry.
For the kitchen and larder final exam, the chefs completed butchery and fishmongery challenges and created a dish of their own from a mystery basket of ingredients compiled by chair of examiners, Russell Bateman. The chefs also had to copy a dairy-free, vegetarian dessert created by Andrew Ditchfield, pastry chef at the House of Commons.
In the pastry exam, the chefs were given five-and-a-half hours to complete a series of dishes set by chair of judges Will Torrent.
Steve Munkley, organiser of the Graduate Awards and vice-president of the Craft Guild of Chefs, said: "Getting to this stage hasn't been easy and we've had to adapt and change the event throughout the last 10 months. There have been moments when we've considered postponing, as Covid-19 kept throwing challenges our way, but at the end of the final exam, I 100% knew I had made the right decision. The finalists all talked about how much this event had helped them during this awful year as it has given them hope, a focus and something to work towards. Every single finalist worked so hard and you could see how much it meant to them on the day.
"Even though we haven't had the opportunity to meet up as much as normal in these awards, everyone gelled in the build-up and at the final. Bringing together candidates, mentors, examiners and organisers is such an important part of the Graduate Awards, as regardless of age or seniority, all chefs are like-minded and can support each other in different ways. A huge thank you must go out to the University of West London for hosting this final and keeping everyone so safe on the day."
Will Torrent, chair of pastry examiners, added: "There were some really delicious, beautiful and creative dishes served up to the examiners this year. Both Lillian and Ranna should feel so proud of what they have achieved. To put yourself forward for a difficult event like this, especially in the face of adversity, shows real grit and determination – skills you need to get to the top in this field. It's been great to see the Graduate Awards continue despite the challenges the pandemic has created and I've been proud to play my part in making that happen."
To see a snapshot of the exams and challenges the chefs undertook, watch the video here
For those interested in the 2021 Graduate Awards, email your contact details to email@example.com