The Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards

September 2014

A top culinary guild broke with tradition to hold its prestigious graduate awards outside London for the first time – at University College Birmingham.

The university’s first-class catering facilities were picked by the Craft Guild of Chefs to stage a complex series of challenges and test the skills of the country’s best young chefs.

The 10 chefs included representatives from The Ritz and the Michelin-starred Galvin at Windows, London, the Royal Household and the House of Commons.

They had to complete a theory paper before being put through their paces in the university’s restaurant kitchens. The chefs had to butcher a shoulder of lamb and fillet a halibut before tackling three cooking tasks.

The challenges included making a fish dish, using the halibut and a basket of mystery ingredients, and a “classic” dish in the shape of a navarin of lamb. To test their all-round skills, the chefs also had to make a chocolate tart, based on a recipe by Graham Hornigold, executive pastry chef for the Hakkasan restaurant group.

The five senior judges included representatives from Birmingham – Luke Tipping, of Simpsons, and David Colcombe, of Opus – as well as Gary Jones, head chef at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saison.

The Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards, now in its 12th year, is not a competition as such. Instead the participants, selected after two national heats, have to achieve a mark of 85% to gain the award. They will find out if they have been successful at a presentation ceremony on Friday (September 5) at the Landmark Hotel, London. Last year, five out of the eight finalists graduated.

Craft Guild vice president and Graduate Awards organiser Steve Munkley said: “This is the first time the final has been held outside London. The spread of candidates is now so great and Birmingham is the heart of the country.

“We chose Birmingham because of the quality of the facilities and the links we have with UCB. An event like this only runs as well as the people in the building allow it to run, and John Penn and Emma Phillips are fantastic.”


The mystery basket: what would you do?

Each of the chefs had to cook a fish dish using halibut (which they only discovered on the day) and the contents of the mystery basket. The basket contained:

  • 1 litre fish stock
  • 1 red chilli
  • 300g fennel
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • 30g shrimp paste
  • 400g new potatoes
  • 100g soba noodles
  • 200g red pepper
  • 200g courgette
  • 50g fresh ginger
  • 4 large cloves of garlic
  • Half cucumber
  • 250g vine plum tomatoes
  • 300g leaf spinach
  • 250g red seedless grapes
  • 10g flat leaf parsley
  • 1 lemon
  • 100g cooked chorizo
  • 150ml double cream