Twenty-two-year-old Adam Smith, sous chef at the Ritz in London, won a gold medal at the 40th WorldSkills competition in Calgary, Canada, earlier this month. He spoke to Kerstin Kühn about taking part in the biennial event
Caterer Tell us about the WorldSkills competition.
Adam Smith It's a massive competition, and more than 50 countries compete against each other in 45 different skills categories. It took place over four days in Calgary, and there were 900 competitors in total and more than 100,000 visitors to the event. There were three hospitality categories: cooking, confectionery and pastry cooking, and restaurant service. Alistair Bird from Thames Valley University picked up a medallion for excellence in the confectionary competition, and Katie Watson from Gleneagles was awarded a bronze medal in the restaurant service category, so the UK hospitality team did really well.
Caterer What does it mean to you to have won the gold medal?
AS I'm only the second UK chef to have won a gold medal, after Simon Hulstone, so I'm really pleased. It was the first time that three gold medals were awarded, because the points were so close, and I shared my gold with chefs from Korea and Germany. I'm still on a high, as I only got back to work this week and it hasn't all settled in yet. I felt really privileged just to have been able to represent the UK at the competition, so winning a gold medal was a real bonus.
Caterer What did you cook?
AS We were given seven different modules, and each included a list of compulsory ingredients and a list of optional ingredients which we could choose from. One of the modules featured compulsory ingredients including saddle of lamb, pumpkin, polenta and green beans, so I made a spinach-crusted saddle of lamb with pumpkin purée, chartreuse of polenta, French beans and balsamic.
Caterer How did you prepare for the event?
AS I found out in June what the modules were, and I came up with my ideas then. I went to Dubai to train at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management and also spent some time at the Landau restaurant at the Langham hotel in London with head chef Andrew Turner. John Williams, my executive chef at the Ritz, has been a major help, and having supported Simon Hulstone as commis chef at this year's Bocuse d'Or competition also helped a lot. It gave me the experience of cooking under enormous pressure in front of a massive live audience, and working with Simon meant I got a lot of ideas.
Caterer How can London prepare to host the WorldSkills in 2011?
AS I think the main thing, especially for the hospitality industry, is to publicise the event. WorldSkills isn't one of the major chef competitions and there needs to be more awareness about it. The more it is publicised, the more people will want to enter, which in turn will raise the standards.