The winners of the Annual Awards of Excellence (AAE) ‘Lockdown Awards' were announced this afternoon in a ceremony hosted by Royal Academy of Culinary Arts president Brian Turner and chairman John Williams, as well as honorary AAE president Jason Atherton.
The AAE is awarded to professionals aged 20-26 in the hospitality industry, recognising chefs, pastry chefs and waiters. Since it began in 1983 more than 650 young professionals have achieved the award, which is an examination rather than a competition; all or none of the candidates can achieve it depending on their ability to attain the standard of excellence set by the judges.
The candidates who score the highest marks in each section are named the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts AAE Lockdown Young Chef, Young Pastry Chef and Young Waiter of the Year.
During lockdown, the task was set for candidates to share something that they felt proud of, that they have achieved during their time in lockdown since March 2020, which could be anything from additional work activities, voluntary work or developing their knowledge or a new skill.
The winners were:
Francesca Merico, 21 Restaurant, Newcastle (AAE Lockdown Young Waiter of The Year)
Riccardo Migliorini, Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, London
Sofia Petrova, Restaurant Story, London
Hannah Catley, Lockdown Loaves, Bristol
Emma Lawson, Keelham Farm Shop, Skipton (AAE Lockdown Young Pastry Chef of the Year)
Tanuj Sharma, InterContinental London – The O2
Aimee Applegate, the Pig, Bath
Nestor Masudi, Claude Bosi at Bibendum, London
Scott Pepper, Boodles, London (AAE Lockdown Young Chef of the Year)
Gerry Sands, André Garrett at the Corinthia London
Pepper was named Young Chef of the Year having walked over 100 miles in seven days to raise funds for Hospitality Action; Lawson was awarded Young Pastry Chef of the Year having baked bread for vulnerable people in her neighbourhood and done Facebook Live videos to help local children learn how to bake; and Merico won Young Waiter of the Year after completing both her Level 1 and 2 WSET courses and working on a cheese farm in her native Italy.
Williams said: "One of the most satisfying things about working in the hospitality industry is to see ingenuity and innovation. We knew that our AAE candidates would embrace the challenge of lockdown and they certainly did. We have received a range of truly inspirational stories that included self-improvement, baking for their local NHS hospital and even starting their own businesses.
Sara Jayne Stanes, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, said: "The Annual Awards of Excellence remains the essence of the academy's education philosophy and was, in 1983 when it was launched, the first of the academy's many initiatives that have raised the bar and set standards for the industry over the past three decades."