UCB hosts Annual Awards of Excellence heats

April 2015

The University hosted a semi-final for one of the UK’s most prestigious culinary awards – and was praised for its facilities.

The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts’ Annual Awards of Excellence (AAE) represents the gold standard for young professionals in the hospitality industry, recognising the talents of ambitious chefs, pastry chefs and waiters aged 20 to 26 and working full-time in the industry.

We took a peek at the pastry kitchens and saw the eight chefs take on a marathon five-hour challenge that involved making:

  • puff pastry
  • six Eccles cakes
  • six apple turnovers
  • six fleurons (puff pastry crescents)
  • a chocolate Easter cake for 10
  • six “snacking” bars coated in tempered chocolate

The AAE is run as an examination rather than a competition. All of the candidates have to achieve a set pass mark to progress to the final, where they face another series of challenges. The candidate who scores the most marks in each section is named the RACA Young Chef, Young Pastry Chef and Young Waiter 2015.

Since it began in 1983, more than 480 young professionals have achieved the award, which acts as a springboard to successful careers in the hospitality industry.

The amazing pastry creations were judged by an expert team including Sarah Hartnett, of The Sheraton Park Lane, and UCB’s lecturer Samantha Dowle.

Head pastry chef Sarah said: “The support team for the Annual Awards of Excellence semi-finals at University College Birmingham was absolutely terrific and could not have done any more to help in the preparation or assistance throughout the entire day.

“Besides the attendance of lecturers Samantha Dowle and John Penn to look after judges and candidates, there were also apprentices on-hand who volunteered with washing-up, locating ingredients and running items to fridges and freezers.

“From the participants’ point of view, UCB have state-of-the-art kitchens that are filled with fantastic equipment and this also contributed to making their new kitchen environment a lot more user-friendly.

“Candidates this year have been terrific. It’s hugely encouraging to have so many great entrants for the Annual Awards of Excellence that have been supported by their workplaces, bosses and peers alike to afford the practice, time and ingredients necessary for competing. It should be an outstanding final.”