November 2022

Graduate named Young Chef of the Year as College of Food quartet star in BCF final

By Darren Campbell

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Four young chefs from University College Birmingham have showed their culinary class after going head-to-head in the final of a national cooking competition – with one taking the top prize.

The quartet were among 13 star cooks from around the country battling for the honour of being named British Culinary Federation (BCF) Young Chef of the Year 2022 in a cookoff held at the University's Summer Row kitchens last week.

The coveted title was won by former Culinary Arts Management BA (Hons) student Lee Yong Xiang – who currently works at Birmingham's Michelin-starred Simpsons Restaurant in Edgbaston – earning him the gold medal and the David Bache Trophy.

He also received a winner’s cheque for £500 and a chef educational trip to Ireland courtesy of Bord Bia, as well as automatic seeding for next year's National Young Chef of the Year competition.

"This year's final once again highlighted the exceptional young talent we have working in the industry"

Peter Griffiths President of the British Culinary Federation (BCF)

Ex-Professional Cookery Level 3 student Ben Perks, from Solihull restaurant Toffs by Rob Palmer, scooped the silver medal along with a runner-up cheque for £300.

Joining them in the final were former apprentice chef Amrita Phull and current Professional Chef FdA student Louis Richards, with all four each receiving a framed certificate and commemorative plate sponsored by Villeroy and Boch, as well as a special dispenser presented by Wrapmaster.

BCF Young Chef of the Year 2022 finalists, including Amrita Phull (back row, 1st from left), Ben Perks (front row, 2nd from left), Louis Richards (front row, 4th from left) and Lee Yong Xiang (front row, 6th from left)

The final saw competitors given two hours to produce a three-course meal for two covers – the first course as free choice, the main (sponsored by Bord Bia) using a sirloin of grass-fed Irish beef along with Irish beef offal as a garnish, and a dessert of their choice. They were also required to use products from the Major International range and Lakeland Dairies.

The event, now in its 25th year, culminated with an awards dinner attended by 80 industry guests at the University's renowned Restaurant at Birmingham College of Food.

Competition organiser and BCF President Peter Griffiths, who announced the awards, praised the skills and innovation of the young chefs.

"This year's final once again highlighted the exceptional young talent we have working in the industry," he said. "It was rewarding to see the young chefs developing their skills and showing us the high quality of their cooking.

"The industry is challenging at the moment but competitions such as this show and highlight some of the very good young chefs that are out there in the industry today. Based upon what I have seen, I am pleased to say the future looks positive."

In pictures: BCF Young Chef of the Year 2022 at Summer Row

Professor Kali Davidson, Head of the Birmingham College of Food, said: “We host this event regularly and are always pleased with the calibre of students that enter this competition.

“Many of our alumni return each year, which enables us to follow their culinary journey.”

Finalist Louis Richards won BCF Student Chef of the Year earlier in 2022

Students from University College Birmingham have certainly made their mark on BCF competitions in recent years, with finalist Louis Richards having already won the inaugural Student Chef of the Year title back in May.

Chef lecturer Martin Hodgetts, who served as mentor for second year student Louis in both competitions, said: “It was a real pleasure to continue to mentor Louis after his success in the BCF Student Chef of the Year.

“He really stepped up to the mark and did himself and University College Birmingham proud with his performance. This was not a student-only contest and he was up against some incredibly strong competition. I am really proud of him and it has been incredible to watch him grow as a chef.”

Other previous successes include former Professional Cookery student Nathan Lane – who won the 2019 BCF Young Chef of the Year title and now works at Mickael Viljanen's two-Michelin-starred Chapter One restaurant in Dublin – while the competition has welcomed a dozen finalists from the University in the last five years alone.

University College Birmingham is renowned as a leading provider of training for the culinary arts, delivered by expert chef lecturers and hosting world-class facilities including industry-standard kitchens and our award-winning training restaurant.

Students on our food and hospitality courses also enjoy a wealth of opportunities to showcase their skills in national and international competitions, including the Nestle Professional Toque d'Or, Culinary Olympics, International Salon Culinaire and Zest Quest Asia.

Find out more about our wide range of college, undergraduate and postgraduate courses within our Birmingham College of Food.

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