Why you should encourage your young chefs to apply for the Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards

The  Staff Canteen

Ahead of the launch of this year’s Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards, Russell Bateman, from Colette’s at the Grove and Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards Chairman of Examiners, tells The Staff Canteen why he is a big supporter of the scheme and explains why supporting young chefs benefits the industry as a whole.

The Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards are celebrating their 15th year. Created by Steven Munkley, the awards are ‘all about education and it’s not a competition’. Unlike competitions, there can be one Graduate Awards winner or, like this year, there can be 8 who pass. The Graduate Awards are about testing the young chef’s abilities and encouraging them to progress – plus if they pass they get an instant ticket into the semi-final of the Craft Guild of Chefs Young National Chef of the Year, so worth a shot really isn’t it?

“Last year was my first year as Chairman of the Examiners, I hadn’t been involved in it before but I had heard a lot about it,” explained former National Chef of the Year, Russell Bateman.

Consultant pastry chef Will Torrent, is one of the Pastry Graduate Awards examiners and explains why he is so excited that pastry has now become part of the awards:

“I am super passionate about young chefs, especially young pastry chefs, and I’m also very passionate about training, encouragement and development of those young chefs. When Steve (Munkley) and Yolande Stanley, Chair of Pastry Examiners, told me last year they were finally going to get the Pastry Graduate Awards together we punched the air and jumped for joy!

"It’s about time we got pastry chefs on the map a bit more – Bake Off has certainly helped, young people are watching it but how do we as the Craft Guild make that link or jump between ‘I like watching Bake Off and I like baking’ to ‘I want to be a pastry chef and I want to create chocolates and showpieces?

Will Torrent

“We like to encourage in the Graduate Awards and it is about development and seeing their progression. Collectively we build them up and give them tools, tips and training – and you can see their confidence change from when they walked in at the semi-finals.

"And that’s what we should get excited about because as their confidence grows, they’ll push themselves more and then we’ll get better pastry chefs and chefs. Which means our future stars will be even better than we are as a collective.”

“Danny Hoang who used to work for me, passed the Graduate Awards and then went on to win Young National Chef of the Year and now he’s working at a two Michelin-starred restaurant in New York. That’s an example of the calibre of people this award attracts. They are the people who are moving forward in the industry, the young people and the future of this industry.”

Russell Bateman
Russell Bateman

He added: “The reason I’m so interested in the Graduate Awards is when I was younger my first job was with a guy called Steven Scuffell, who was and still is on the board of Craft Guild of Chefs and he was always interested in my career progression, he was always asking ‘where are you going next?’.

“I was fortunate in my career that I always had chefs who were interested in me and they showed an interest – so I was one of the lucky ones. I was very aware that there were a lot of people around me in the industry who didn’t have that support, they didn’t have those people who cared for them.

“There were a lot of people going from kitchen to kitchen very lost in their industry and careers.”

The Craft Guild and the Graduate Awards creates a network of people who have these young chef’s interests at heart. And as Russell has mentioned it’s a great way to reach out to the future of this industry.

He said: “The standard and calibre of the kitchens they were coming from in last year’s awards was excellent, I was amazed by the standard of the food they were producing. And we watched them progress and evolve through the whole process and you can only get pride out of that.

Craft Guild of Chefs

Graduate Awrds

“Because it’s not a competition they all become a unit, they do the semi-finals together, they go on their trips together and the mentor days together; so they not only build relationships with the judges but they build them with one another. 

“In this industry, which can be very fickle, building relationships is the most important thing. It’s hard to build those relationships when you are in a kitchen 16 hours a day and the Graduate Awards is an opportunity for that to happen. They become friends for life.”

There’s so much more to the Graduate Awards than the award itself, the graduates are not just given a certificate and sent on their way they become part of community and hopefully continue to progress together.

Russell added: “We want more entries this year…and if we don’t I’ll go and drag them out of the kitchens!”

By Cara Houchen


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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th February 2017

Why you should encourage your young chefs to apply for the Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards