The Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards - top tips on how to pass the 'fish' task

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th April 2017

The Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards is celebrating its 16th year and it has added some amazing chefs to its wall of fame in that time.

So who better to offer advice to the next chef hopefuls entering this year's Graduate Awards than those who have already achieved this award! The Staff Canteen spoke to past graduates to find out what advice they would give to successfully pass the 'fish' task.

**The Graduate Awards are an examination for chefs, aged 23 and under, designed to test and improve the skills that chefs have learnt at college and in their early careers, and take them to the next level. Chefs have until Sunday, 1st April 2018 to submit their entries. You can complete your entry form online here.

Connor Godfrey
Connor Godfrey

1) Ruth Hansom, Young National Chef of the Year 2017 winner and chef at the Michelin-starred the Ritz was a graduate in 2014.

“So the fish task is relatively simple to prepare for in that you are going to get a flat fish or a round fish. Yes, they will vary in size but the anatomy will be very similar. If you find you struggle at one of the types then chose that one to practice most.”

2) Connor Godfrey, junior sous chef, Royal Garden Hotel and 2014 graduate

“Practice as much as you possibly can and even go to a fish mongers for professional training if possible. Always have someone look over your work and give you feedback on where you could improve.”

3) Victoria Scupham, pastry chef, The Royal Household and former graduate 2014.

“I think for both the fish and butchery tasks the key is to practice both of the fish and meat options in which you are given, even though on the day you will only be given one, so that you are confident with both and not just the one.

Whilst practicing, the key is to make sure you are strict and time yourself when you are practicing both the fishmonger and butchery tasks so that on the day you are confident you are able to complete the task in the time frame and won't run over. Also, make sure when you are practicing you imagine it is the competition day every time – so ensure to work cleanly, neatly, safely and tidy every time – then when it comes to the task you will continue to work professionally. Another main factor is to try to enjoy the whole experience.”

Amber Francis
Amber Francis

4) Amber Francis, apprentice chef, at the Michelin-starred The Ritz and 2014 graduate.

Practice makes perfect, master the skill then keep practicing. You can never be too prepared, and fish preparation is a valuable skill to have.”

5) Andrew Hall is head chef at The Ninth which holds a star in the Michelin Guide UK. He is also a former graduate from 2006.

“Make sure all of your knives are sharp and ready to go, there is nothing worse than prepping fish with a blunt knife.”

6) Erin Yates is former demi chef at Wiltons and was a graduate from last year’s competition.

“To prepare for the finals I knew I needed to work on my fish prep because I didn't have much experience with fish and I knew I could have done better in the semi-finals. With my head chef I arranged to spend a morning at Billingsgate fish market. I spent the whole morning filleting fish as well as preparing lots of shellfish. I would highly recommend everyone does this before the semi-finals if they don't have a lot of experience with fish prep or even just because it is great to see how it all runs.”

7) Eleanor de Maria is junior sous at Compass Group UK & Ireland Head Office and was also a graduate from 2016.

Order in the specificed fish or similar types to practice on, get your mentors and experienced colleagues to help as well.”

Rosa Fothergill

8) Luke Selby is currently the head chef of the Michelin starred Dabbous in London and was Young National Chef of the Year 2014. He was a graduate back in 2013.

“Razor sharp knives and clean confident cuts, I still believe that I'm to only one score 10/10 on my fish preparation!”

9) Rosa Fothergill, who previously worked at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, is now the chef and owner of Tea Time Yorkshire. Rosa was a graduate from back in 2008.

Make sure your knife is super sharp working close to the bones to get beautiful portions of fish and minimum flesh left on the bones.”

10) Drew Snaith, senior sous at the Globe Tavern in Borough Market, was a graduate in 2015 and was a finalist in last year’s Young National Chef of the Year competition.

Always use a very sharp, semi flexible knife. Whenever working with fish use your knife in long sweeping

Charlie Aggett
Charlie Aggett

strokes, using the whole of your blade. This will help you to have neat and tidy fillets. I always make sure to have a clean cloth to dry the fish and to periodically wipe your knife on, ideally after each couple of times you cut into the fish. Always make sure the fish is scaled and we'll dried off before starting to fillet.”

11) Charlie Aggett was a graduate in 2015 and is currently chef tournant at the Michelin-starred Hotel Villino in Lindau, Germany.

“Make sure you get your practice in with a number of different fish types. Practice is the key to success after all!

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th April 2017

The Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards - top tips on how to pass the 'fish' task