Spotlight on the Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate, Connor Godfrey

The Staff Canteen

Connor Godfrey joined the Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards Hall of Fame in 2014 and since getting the grade has even gone on to mentor another candidate through the process.

In 2015, Olivia Baggley also from Wiltons, was one of just five graduates to take to the stage after receiving advice and guidance from Connor. He  is currently  senior chef de partie at Wiltons Restaurant where he has been working for the past 18 months. 

connor godfrey 2With the 2016 Graduate Awards open for entry we’ve been catching up with Connor to find out what these awards mean to him.

>>>Download the entry form now

Did you always want to be a chef when you were growing up?

Since I was about 12 or 13 years old being a chef was something which really appealed to me. Obviously working with food is a huge attraction and I am definitely not someone who could sit in an office each day. Being busy and constantly doing something hands on with lots of opportunity to interact with others is what I love most.

Why did you enter the Craft Guild of Chefs’ Graduate Awards?

I entered the Graduate Awards three times and passed on my third attempt. For me it was another accolade to have and I know it’s something only a small amount of people have achieved. It’s an elite group to be in and so despite not passing the first two years I had the determination to keep going. You should never give up on something you have failed, you just keep working at it and try and improve for next time.connor quote

What was it about these awards that attracted you?

When you tell people you have passed the Graduate Awards you get a huge amount of recognition from other people. The industry knows how much it takes to get through this exam and you really get respect from your peers when they know you are a Graduate.

How did you find the examination?

Obviously the first two times were really hard but once I had those years under my belt I knew what I had to do and practised as much as I could. I’d learnt so much already so the final time was really enjoyable.

What was your favourite part of the process?

Definitely meeting new people. It’s really good to get outside of your kitchen and get to know chefs who work in other locations. I’ve stayed in contact with lots of the people I met during the awards and it’s good to chat to them and share ideas and news.

Three insights from Connor Godfrey: What’s your favourite dish to cook?

I have no favourite dish as I just like cooking in general. For me the ideal experience is playing around with different ingredients and seeing what I can create.

Where would you most like to eat out if you could go anywhere in the world?

It would definitely be in New York so I’d say Per Se or 11 Eleven Madison Park.

Who is your biggest culinary inspiration?

Definitely my dad. I’ve learnt so much from him and he still inspires me.

How important is having a mentor?

My head chef, Daniel Kent mentored me and he gave me all the support I could ask for. This included offering advice, giving me time to practice and talking through ideas. He would even alter the menu to make sure we had the right ingredients for me to practise with. Since passing the examination I have mentored another candidate which I enjoyed. It was a really positive experience as I learnt a lot about myself through this too. For me, every day is a school day as there’s always something to discover. Being a mentor showed me how to get the best results out of someone so seeing that Olivia had made the grade was a huge moment of pride for me.

How did you feel when you found out you had passed?

Very happy! I was genuinely ecstatic as it was so frustrating to miss out the second time and it’s something I had always wanted to achieve. There was a real sense of relief, especially when I heard my score.

Tell us about some of your career highlights since the exam.

After passing the Graduate Awards, I was seeded into the heats of the Young National Chef of the Year competition and I made it into the final eight. This meant competing in the live final at The Restaurant Show in 2015 which was really exciting.  Another highlight was cooking with Alan Paton at the Universal Cookery and Food Festival at Vallum Farm. I would say passing the Graduate Award is my proudest career moment, especially getting such high marks. Knowing all the hard work and determination paid off was extremely rewarding.

What would you say to young people considering entering this examination?Connor dish image 2 - quail low res

Give it a go as you never know where your boundaries are until you push them. Obviously passing the final exam is what we all want and aspire to achieve. However there’s so much to experience in each stage of the process, whether that’s in the heats, on the mentor day, or at the final.

>>> Read more about the awards and find out more about past graduates here

If you do enter, my advice would be to stay focused, practice whenever you can and learn as much as possible from everyone you spend time with.

Why do you think the industry needs events like the Graduate Awards?

As a young chef you are often cooking someone else’s dishes until you get to a level in your career where you can be more creative. The Graduate Awards gave me an opportunity to challenge myself and it was a place where I could put my own ideas to the test. It’s also something that gave me a break from the normality of my day job. There is going to be a Pastry Graduate Award this year and I think this is great news for the industry. Personally I think it’s something that could have been done a long time ago as there really is a need for more events for pastry chefs. It’s good to have an award that appeals to all chefs, regardless of the area they work in.

***The closing date for entries is May 6 2016. Join in the conversation about the Graduate Awards by tweeting @Craft_Guild and using the hashtag #CGCGradAwards.  

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Editor 26th February 2016

Spotlight on the Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate, Connor Godfrey