A new group of 33 chefs from foodservice firm BaxterStorey have graduated from its Chef Academy training programme.
Speaking at the event last night (22 February) Noel Mahony (pictured), co-chief executive at BaxterStorey, said: "It has been an incredible year for all of the graduates. They have worked so hard and have demonstrated pride, enthusiasm, commitment, soul and a never say die attitude."
He said 1,000 chefs have benefited from the Academy since it was launched 13 years ago.
More than 100 people attended the graduation including guest speaker Tom Kerridge, chef-proprietor of the two-Michelin-starred Hand & Flowers and the Coach pub in Marlow.
Kerridge said: "It was 25 years ago that I first entered a kitchen. I couldn't believe what a bonkers, bizarre and amazing space it was, but I fell in love with it.
"Achieving things in this industry is about trying to get better day by day. People wouldn't stay for so long if they didn't enjoy it. Let's face it; you don't enter the industry for the money. It's about being part of a team and we should all be proud of this industry."
Having opened the Hand & Flowers in 2005 with just a handful of staff, his two venues now employ more than 100 people.
He added: "I enjoy what I do; I can't explain the numbers or the business model. When we first opened we had 14 tables, we now have 15. I have no idea how it works."
Chef John Campbell, who launched the Woodspeen last year - a restaurant and cookery school in collaboration with BaxterStorey's parent company, also attended the event.
He said: "I could not have asked for a better start. It's been an amazing year. If you wished for a great start to a business and then double it, you'd still be nowhere near.
"I think we hit the sweet spot when we opened the Woodspeen. It's nice to get back to simple, tasty, seasonal food that is cooked and served with passion.
"Service takes precedence over food. Food can be good but service needs to be exceptional."
Nina Mash, head chef at BaxterStorey - King & Wood Mallesons, a graduate and best level 3 student helped kick-start the event with a heartfelt reading. She said: "Be inspired, be the best you can be, do not wait until tomorrow, live now."