The Craft Guild of Chefs is looking for chefs under the age of 23 to enter the 2016 Graduate Awards. Entries are now open and young chefs have until Friday 6th May to complete the entry form.

The examinations, created by Steve Munkley 14 years ago, aim to test and improve the skills which chefs have learnt at college and in their early careers, and take them to the next level. Chefs have to go through a tough entry process including a paper entry, heats and then final examination. This includes a theory paper, butchery and fishmongery tests as well as creating a ‘mystery basket’ dish, classic main course and a dessert that will really impress the panel of culinary experts.

For 2016, former National Chef of the Year and head chef at Collettes Restaurant Russell Bateman has taken over the reins as chair of examiners and is on the look-out for some of the UK’s youngest talent.

He said: “We hear so much about lack of skills or a shortage of chefs coming through colleges but I believe the Graduate Awards provide an opportunity to really improve skills. The awards also show young people there are real opportunities for those who choose being a chef as a career choice. My plea to head chefs around the UK is to encourage young chefs to enter as whatever level they achieve, a huge amount is gained from the experience.”

Another addition to the 2016 event is the launch of the Pastry Graduate Award. Entrants will need to send in a paper entry and those selected for the next round will complete a short multiple choice theory test and be assessed when completing a series of skills tasks. In the final exam, young chefs will also be asked to create a dessert using a mystery basket of ingredients, as well as serving up their own interpretation of a classic dessert.

Steve Munkley, founder and organiser of the Graduate Awards, said: “I’ve been thinking about creating a Pastry Award for some time as it’s an area which is often talked about in terms of a shortage of skills and new chefs. The Guild is constantly looking for ways to entice young people to be part of our industry and showcase the talent that’s out there so it’s important that we give them opportunities to shine like this. I’m looking forward to the final exam already and unveiling the first ever Pastry Graduate.”

Only 48 chefs have ever passed the Graduate Awards examination and many of those have seen their careers taken to new levels with the award on their CV. One of those is James Goodyear, chef de partie at Maaemo in Oslo.

When passing the examination in 2012, James was working at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and is thankful to head chef Gary Jones and his team for their passion for developing young talent. For those considering entering this year James offered some advice: “I would say 100% go for it. The knowledge and confidence it gives you is always a good thing regardless of what stage in the process you get to. You meet a lot of interesting people and make some really good contacts which can help further your career.”

Since becoming a Graduate, James has enjoyed travelling to various prestigious restaurants in Spain and New York, one of the highlights being Mugaritz in San Sabastian. James added: “The Graduate Awards do a fantastic job for showcasing young talent and it’s a fantastic addition to your CV. Your skills are tested in so many different areas, rather than in just one aspect. The Guild are able to get your name out into the wider industry and the prizes and opportunities that come with passing the final exam are amazing.”

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