Bruce Poole chairs the panel of chef judges at the Young Chef Young Waiter competition and says he's always impressed with what the entrants achieve
We launch the Young Chef Young Waiter (YCYW) competition this week - another year, another opportunity for our young talent to show off their skills and prove their professionalism.
I'm always amazed at what they achieve in this competition at both regional and national final level. Under intense pressure and in a highly competitive kitchen environment, the chefs hold their nerve to produce outstanding dishes. At the final itself, these plates are served in a true restaurant setting by youngsters who remain cool and unflappable with real customers - who can be anything but.
This is the fifth year that I have chaired the panel of chef judges (Angela Hartnett takes over in 2012) and the excellent Stephen Mannock has led the waiter judges over a similarly lengthy tenure. Each year I have been helped in my duties by fellow judges of the very highest calibre, such as Phil Howard, Brett Graham, David Everitt-Matthias, Tom Aikens, Claude Bosi, Nigel Howarth - and many others. We are always impressed with what these young chefs achieve and we are unanimous in our respect for their efforts.
A couple of years ago we took the bold leap to stage the waiters' competition in a real-life restaurant environment with paying customers. This year we are introducing six new awards: Most Original Dish, Best Dessert, and Best Kitchen Craft for chefs, and Best Barista, Best Wine Waiter, and Best Cheese Knowledge for front-of-house entrants. This is all part of extending the scope of the competition while maintaining its standard as the pre-eminent craft competition in the industry.
As the quality of the competition continues to rise it can only help to further enhance our culinary reputation in Europe. One of the many reasons I am so enthusiastic about YCYW is the role that it plays in encouraging the young people who enter to develop their cooking and waiting skills and to test their professionalism.
We always say that YCYW is more than a competition; it is also a great-fun learning journey - witness the Laurent-Perrier study trip to Champagne for all 16 finalists and a Matthew Clark/Hatch Mansfield visit to Burgundy and the Rhône Valley for the winners, among other prizes.