Record haul of medals for "incredible" culinary arts apprentices

February 2019

Eleven Royal Academy of Culinary Arts (RACA) apprentices from UCB are celebrating success at The Professional Kitchen Show’s competitive stages - including a staggering six gold medals. 

They include 19-year-old Joel Savage, who overcame his nerves to scoop a silver for his expert filleting of a sea bass and trout in front of a huge audience at the Salon Culinaire.

His newfound confidence followed four weeks of practising for his competition debut with UCB lecturers and Ben Ternent, a UCB graduate and the executive chef at Birmingham’s Opus restaurant, where Joel is currently doing the on-the-job element of his apprenticeship.

Joel also got the chance to do a dry run filleting trout for fish pies for Birmingham’s homeless over Christmas, an event organised by charity Sifa Fireside and supported by Opus.

“I was very nervous as it was my first competition and everyone’s watching you - my heart was racing,” said Joel, who is in his third and final year of his course.

“I kept saying to myself, don’t look up at everyone else and as time went on, it got easier. I didn’t think I would win anything and was relieved when I did. My tutors and Ben helped me a lot, spent time practising with me and giving me pointers. I will compete a bit more now.”

Joel’s silver was one of a record haul of medals won by RACA apprentices at the NEC event. In total, they brought home six golds, five silvers and one bronze. There were also two merits.

Drive, passion and commitment

Feedback from the apprentices was extremely positive.

Judge Dez Turland, development chef at Brend Hotels, said: “Awesome cooking and great organisation and professionalism on such young shoulders. The students I judged showed nothing but true enthusiasm, professionalism and determination in all aspects of the kitchen.”

UCB lecturer and apprenticeship coordinator Stuart Wildsmith said: “This group of apprentices is incredible. They have drive, passion and commitment and, in the seven years I’ve been doing this job at UCB, I’ve never seen a group so focused.

“Three of them were, in fact, on our Young Chef Academy, a programme which gives year 10 and 11 students the chance to try their hand at professional cookery while still at school. If it’s for you, you can progress onto a college course. Everything flows brilliantly.

“Putting the third year apprentices in for The Professional Kitchen Show competitions was an opportunity to them to boost their confidence and be the best they can be. I’m particularly proud of Joel as he was very nervous and came away with a silver. Fantastic. A big thank you to the employers for all their support.”

First year RACA apprentices were also given a chance to be involved, assisting top chefs at The Staff Canteen Live stage. Big names included James Cochran, chef owner of 1251 restaurant and Great British Menu 2018 champion, Paul Foster, chef owner of Salt, which was awarded its first Michelin star in October this year, and Tim Allen, chef partner of The Flitch of Bacon, which also achieved its first Michelin star in the 2019 guide.

RACA apprentice winners (and where they are employed)

  • Amrita Phull (Buckland Manor) - Butcher Whole Chicken for Sauté / Masterclass by Ruth Hansom – Gold / Silver
  • Rhys Hanford (Wild Rabbit) - Lemon Sole Filleting – Gold
  • Adam Beaumont (Simpsons) - Preparation of a Best End of Lamb / Masterclass by Leo Kattou – Gold / Silver
  • Tom Hall (Wild Thyme) – Knife Skills – Gold
  • Jahmari Daniel (Moor Hall) - Lemon Sole Filleting – Gold
  • Will Stonier (Wild Rabbit) – Amuse Bouche - Gold
  • Joel Savage (Opus) - Sea Bass / Trout Preparation - Silver
  • Ben Jackson (Hampton Manor) - Sea Bass / Trout Preparation - Silver
  • Katie Cooper (Primitivo) - Butcher Whole Chicken for Sauté / Avocado Starter – Silver / Bronze
  • Alcina Henry (Buckland Manor) – Flan Decoration - Merit
  • Sukie McWhirter (Mallory Court) – Flan Decoration - Merit

Find out more about the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts (RACA) apprenticeship.

Find out more about our college and degree level courses within the College of Food.

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