Seven young chefs have been recognised at the Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards 2017, following a lunch held at London's Royal Garden Hotel today.
Now in its 15th year, five chefs achieved the pass mark in the kitchen examination while two chefs reached the required marks in the pastry award.
Gilles Varone from Petrus in London, Joe Payne from Andre Garrett Restaurant at Cliveden House in Taplow, Berkshire, Vince Vermeulen and William Keeble from Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, and Lewis Kuciers from the Black Bull at Blidworth, were revealed as the new kitchen graduates.
Amy Rose Plumb from Titchwell Manor hotel near Brancaster in Norfolk and Hannah Catley, who works at Chiltern Firehouse in London, were declared as pastry graduates.
Taking the titles of highest achievers across the entire awards were Varone and Catley.
Fifteen chefs in total were asked to undertake a series of tests in the full day graduate examination held at University College Birmingham in August. Kitchen finalists completed a paper exam, fishmongery and butchery skills tests, created classic recipes and prepared their own dish using a basket of mystery ingredients.
To join the Graduate Awards hall of fame, the chefs, aged 23 or under, had to achieve a pass mark of 85%. The pastry graduates were asked to complete a series of challenges during a five-hour test under the watchful eyes of the examiners, which included the 2016 highest achiever Kacey Bignell.
Bignell was joined by fellow examiners Russell Bateman (chair), Yolande Stanley (pastry chair), Glynn Purnell, Ian Nottage, Chris Basten, Michael Zietek, Steve James, Julie Walsh, Graham Crump, Chris Hudson, Andrew Ditchfield, Alan Shipman, and Alistair Birt.
The results were unveiled at an awards lunch prepared by former graduates Richard Edwards, executive chef of Lartington Hall in County Durham, Mark Froydenlund, chef-patron of Marcus at the Berkeley, London, and Selin Kiazim, chef director of Oklava, also in London.
Edwards and Froydenlund served linguini crab, Thai shellfish consommé and slow-roasted Gressingham duck with a hazelnut and caramel glaze, ceps, rosti, elderberries and cabbage pickle, respectively, while Kiazim served her 2017 Great British Menu winning dish, vanilla muhallebi, peach and raspberry jelly, caramised almond shard, peach sorbet and raspberry-rose sorbet.
Twenty-five former Graduate Award achievers were in attendance.
Steve Munkley, who created the Graduate Awards in 2002, said: "It makes me feel extremely proud that today we are celebrating 15 years of the Graduate Awards. The reason I created them was to ensure that there was a channel for young chefs to develop the skills they have learnt at college and take them to the next level. I always follow the careers of those who have achieved this award and have seen some go on to gain Michelin stars, win national awards, work in some of the world's best restaurants and compete in worldwide competitions. This year alone, there are two former graduates competing in the National Chef of the Year final which is incredible to see."
"In the final examination last month, we had candidates from some of the top restaurants in the UK and that's testament to how highly regarded these awards are. We now have over 60 Graduate chefs in our hall of fame and it is fantastic to see so many of them back here today recognising the success of the Class of 2017."
Speaking about this year's examination, chair of examiners, Russell Bateman added: "Taking part in the Graduate Awards final really challenges young chefs, and gives them an opportunity to put their skills to the test outside of their workplace. All the young chefs should be proud of what they achieved in the final and if they didn't reach the pass mark, I hope to see them try again next year. It's an award that develops skills and opens doors so I would encourage all chefs and mentors to get involved, as the opportunities are endless."
Robert Tayler, head chef from The Compasses Inn was announced as the Mentor of the Year for his support of finalist, Jessica Deakin.
• Chefs can register their interest for the 2018 Graduate Awards by emailing email@example.com or by tweeting @Craft_Guild