Here at BIIAB, we are passionate about developing talent in hospitality and catering.
So, it was only natural that we were keen to become a partner for Inspiring Culinary Generations (ICG) – a national competition designed to acknowledge and encourage excellence in the catering industry and in the home.
The national final of the ICG Aspiring Student Chefs competition recently took place at Bournemouth and Poole College, at which chefs competed in the 11-13, 14-16 and 16-18 age categories. Claire Williams, Relationship Manager and Sector Champion for Hospitality and Catering, and Richard Ward, Product Development Manager, represented BIIAB at the event.
Here are Claire’s thoughts on an enjoyable and inspiring day.
A life-changing opportunity
There isn’t much to look forward to in January – arguably the longest, most lacklustre month in the calendar – but I found myself fizzing with excitement as I hit the A338 towards Bournemouth, deep into the chilly month.
The Inspiring Culinary Generations competition was established in 2012 and set out to showcase gastronomic talent in the UK. Entrants come from across the country and range from ages 11 to 18, competing for prizes and prestige with one lucky winner given an exclusive scholarship.
The Specialised Chef’s Scholarship is a three-year programme that combines first-class tuition at Bournemouth and Poole College with work placements that involve learning from highly respected chefs in some of the finest hotels and restaurants in the UK. For an aspiring chef, it is a truly life-changing opportunity.
As a huge foodie, the prospect of being surrounded by likeminded gastronauts cooking in professional quality kitchens is my idea of heaven, so when I discovered BIIAB would be sponsoring the event and I was asked to represent the organisation, I leapt at the chance.
Bournemouth and Poole College hosts the event each year with Paul Dayman, Head Lecturer at the college and a former Specialised Chef graduate himself, co-ordinating the day and forming part of the six-strong judging panel.
Young cooks unfazed by professional kitchen environment
The morning of the competition was bright and brisk, which turned out to be a perfect metaphor for the day. Competitors flanked by their guardians arrived for the first category of the day: the 11-13 age group. Celebrity chef Lesley Waters, an effervescent and infectiously enthusiastic head judge, settled the nerves of the young cooks before they were presented with certificates – the rigorous screening rounds meaning being selected for the final was a great achievement in itself.
Housekeeping complete, the children were led to the kitchens to begin preparing their signature dishes under the watchful eyes of the judges and the current year two students.
Contestants got to grips with the professional kitchen equipment impressively well. I remarked that it must be like getting behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car having only driven a Mini before; the fierce gas burners, roaring hot ovens and flat tops would intimidate many of us, but not these budding chefs. Pans of stocks and sauces bubbled on stoves whilst cooks busied themselves preparing other elements of their dishes. The energy in the kitchen was intense but calm, concentration etched on faces as they worked through recipes, ticking off instructions on food-stained paper at each workstation, the atmosphere bright and brisk!
It was surprising just how quickly the allotted time flew by as plates of delicious-looking food were meticulously arranged and dressed before being carefully carried to the judging area, where Lesley and her team had the unenviable task of deciding who would be this year’s young winner.
High standards give judges tough decision
The 14-16 and 16-18 categories followed, with the latter facing a technical challenge demonstrated by Paul Dayman: filleting, preparing and pan-frying a plaice in beurre noisette and caper dressing, after which they could begin their individually devised dishes. The competitors looked every inch chefs in their whites, deftly trimming venison loin, rolling ever-thinner sheets of pasta through industrial machinery, dancing around one another as they negotiated space in the bustling kitchen, roasting, blanching, caramelising and griddling their way to the final judges’ table of the day.
In the judging room, Lesley Waters and her team huddled over a long table of dishes, adding to notes they’d made against the names of contestants in the kitchen – technique and attitude were taken into consideration as well as the appearance and taste of the finished article. This was not a cut and dried decision; discussions swirled around minutiae separating the top two or three dishes before the judges agreed on the final winner in each category.
As the day drew to a conclusion, the judges gathered competitors, parents and teachers to deliver the results of the day’s efforts. Three winning cooks and runners-up accepted their prizes against warm rounds of applause, clicking camera phones and the odd moist eye.
Truly inspirational competitors
Every one of the young people that took part in the competition were truly inspirational. I’d like to think I know my way around a poultry carcass, I can sear a steak, even turn my hand to a red wine jus, but the plates these tender-aged competitors produced, on equipment they’d never used before and under such enormous pressure, were remarkable. And despite the pressure, there was great camaraderie in the kitchen between the cooks, who generously offered one another support and assistance.
Each of the young cooks had the opportunity to hear invaluable one-to-one advice and feedback from the judges, who encouraged them to enter again next year. It is testament to the fairness and compassion shown by the team that many do return and have more than one ICG competition under their belt.
Maybe I’ll be there to see some of them back next year too.
Let’s develop the next generation of catering talent
The next ICG event is the national final of the Keen Home Cooks competition at The Studio, Lincolnshire, on Thursday 30 March 2023. BIIAB will be in attendance again.
BIIAB supports training in hospitality and catering through our wide variety of qualifications, which includes the following:
- BIIAB Level 1 NVQ Certificate in Food Preparation and Cooking
- BIIAB Level 2 Certificate in Hospitality and Catering Principles (Professional Cookery)
- BIIAB Level 3 Certificate in General Patisserie and Confectionery
- BIIAB Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Professional Cookery
You can browse all our hospitality and catering qualifications here.
We also offer several end-point assessments for hospitality and catering apprenticeship standards, including:
- Level 2 Commis Chef
- Level 2 Production Chef
- Level 3 Chef de Partie
- Level 3 Senior Production Chef
- Level 4 Hospitality Manager
You can view all our end-point assessments here.
And despite the pressure, there was great camaraderie in the kitchen between the cooks
Contestants got to grips with the professional kitchen equipment