Head chef at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant judges Bracknell & Wokingham College’s Cookery Competition

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Head chef at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant judges Bracknell & Wokingham College’s Cookery Competition

01 March 2017

Contestants and judges

We hosted a cookery competition for the College’s Level 2 Hospitality and Catering apprentices. The competition was judged by Janos Veres, Head Chef of Michelin star Hinds Head, Bray and Andy Mackenzie, Executive Chef, Exclusive Chefs Academy, part of Exclusive Hotels & Venues.

We were honoured to have them here and also greatly appreciated the support from Waitrose as they sponsored the event by paying for the ingredients and provided a hamper of goodies for 3rd prize. They also support our full time students by giving them work experience.

The apprentices that took part were: Daniel Mckinley from Glebelands, (a care home for people that have worked in the film industry); Jonathan Woodman from local hostelry The Duke of Edinburgh; Nathan Anderson is from Limes, a bespoke bakery and café in Windsor; Michal Bilut and Christopher Jones work for a prestigious contract caterer Blue Apple at AkzoNobel in Slough.

Students were allowed to choose any 2-course menu for 1 person (starter/main or main/dessert) and could either serve it hot or cold. They had to consider nutritional balance and list any allergens when designing their dishes. Competitors had an hour and a half to cook and clear away.

Jonathan got inspiration from his head chef Brian at the Duke of Edinburgh pub in Ascot. He said:

“He helped me and then I altered the dish to challenge myself even more. I also don't eat fish, but I don't want that to stop me from being able to cook fish to the best standard possible.”

 His advice to potential Hospitality & Catering students would be:

“Take this Apprenticeship as it is great, college is good fun, and learning while earning is the best thing. Plus Ross is such a massive help and runs it brilliantly.”

The inspiration for Daniel’s dish came from wanting to bring together various concepts, influences and flavours that he picked up along his travels.

 He said:

“I am passionate about cooking, I love the challenge and it was great to see what other like minded students had to offer.”

His advice to potential Hospitality & Catering students would be:

“Don't give up at the first hurdle, keep switching employers after learning their dishes and techniques, try different environments such as: hotels, restaurants, pubs, contract catering etc, this way, you will find the right atmosphere that suits your cooking style.”

Andy Mackenzie from Exclusive Chefs Academy has been cooking for 36 years. He enjoys creating new dishes using lots of modern and classical cooking techniques. “ I also enjoy teaching with the abundance of local fresh seasonal and tasty produce that is readily available to us today.”

He commented: “the styles of cooking were all very different but all achieved what they set out to cook and all produced good quality tasty food.”

His advice to potential Hospitality and Catering students is “if you have that burning desire for cooking great food and love everything about the process, grow that passion in a company/ restaurant/ kitchen that will support you on your journey to get you to where it will make you happiest in your cooking.”

He thought all the food that was presented well, “I would happily pay for if in any eatery but there is always some room for improvement but that is how it is at the beginning of your cooking career.”    

Guests waited patiently for judges to come to a decision as to who the winner was, helping themselves to the competitors dishes whilst they waited. The competitors and their family and friends were joined by their employers who came to support their apprentices. Representatives of Waitrose also came along to show their support.

After a long diliberation, the winner was finally announced. Jonathan Woodman came in 1st place, Daniel Mckinley and Michal Bilut came in joint second, Nathan Anderson came 3rd and Christopher Jones came in 4th Place.

Jonathan said: “I couldn't believe it when I won, I thought everyone else's dishes were presented better than mine. But I was so proud of myself as the work to learn how to fillet a fish paid off. Also to turn around and see my mum crying with joy was so emotional for me, it was a great moment.”

He also added:

“I enjoyed the challenge of cooking in a competition as I've never done it before. And of course winning was the biggest enjoyment there was of the evening.”

When asked why Daniel, Section Manager for Food Production from Waitrose felt it was important to support the event he said:

“It is good to promote emerging talent, and future chefs in the industry.”

Daniel said that the menus “reflects greatly the time and investment the apprentices and their employers invested in the competition.”

Janos Veres, Head Chef of Michelin star Hinds Head advised students to have their heart set on cooking and give it 100%. “Work hard. Taste, taste, taste. Try different restaurants as much as possible rather than working in many different places. It’s a hard trade but very rewarding.”

He thought their menus were all very different, he said:

“It shows the versatility of their back ground. It is all about the execution which they have been great at.”

Katie Clarke from Blue Apple Catering was at the event to support her employees Michal Bilut and Christopher Jones. She enjoyed the event, she thought it was brilliant. She also enjoyed the whole experience for the boys. “The young blood coming through in our industry, I thought it was great to see. They are an absolute pleasure to work with.”

Andy commented:

“The event was very well organised and well placed as a building block for next year. I hope I will be lucky enough to be included again for next year.

Great to see Bracknell & Wokingham College, employers and many more support this apprentice competition.”   

If you want to find out more about the Apprenticeships we offer, visit http://www.bracknell.ac.uk/courses/apprenticeships/subjects.

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