Amber Francis, a chef at The Ritz in London, took away the Highest Achiever prize at the awards at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in London yesterday (6 September) with four others achieving a pass mark of 85 per cent or more. They were Erin Jackson Yates from Wiltons, Eleanor De Maria of Compass House, Andre Rhone of The Bingham and Aaron Middleton of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.
Kacey Bignell from The Mandarin Oriental Hotel was awarded the Highest Achiever Award in the inaugural pastry graduate exam with Rita Souto from Park Lane Hilton and Fiona Bailey from The Dragon also making the grade.
Sixteen finalists took part in the final at Westminster Kingsway College in London last week where they completed a multiple choice paper test and a pork belly butchery task. They also poached lobster and then created Lobster Newburg and roasted pork to make a Gateaux Fraisier as well as cooking their own dish using a mystery basket of ingredients.
Chair of examiners, Russell Bateman said “The standard in the final exam has gone to another level from the heats and it was fantastic to see growth and development in the chefs. Whether they achieve the pass mark or not, entering the Graduate Awards is only going to make young chefs stronger.
"It’s great to bring together a group of like-minded chefs who all want to grow and develop their skills. These will be the head chefs of the future, opening their own restaurants or running hotel kitchens. Around the world, chefs are going back to basics and focusing on culinary skills and classic dishes and this is something the Graduate Awards has been doing for the last 14 years so I’m very proud to be involved.”
Steve Munkley, organiser and founder of the Graduate Awards, said: “Congratulations to all the new graduates and our first ever pastry graduates. We threw in a couple of curveballs this year and all the chefs rose to the challenge. I’m confident this is down to the help and support they were given throughout the process, including our two mentor days and the ongoing advice from their employers.”