The Chefs’ Forum delivered an interactive virtual School Taster Day last week, Wednesday 19 May 2021, alongside the staff of our Chefs’ Forum Academy at West London College and accompanied by some of the industry’s leading chefs.
Catherine Farinha, Founder of The Chefs’ Forum, welcomed the students, schools, and all participants to the taster event. Denise Charles, Head of Curriculum for Service Industries at West London College, introduced the students to the Hospitality and Catering department, providing an overview of course options and outlining the opportunities for students to enrol onto study programmes at a variety of levels.
Tracy Round-Turner, Assistant Principal at West London College, supplied an insightful video interview, outlining the strength of the partnership between the College and The Chefs’ Forum. Tracy highlighted the many benefits the college has enjoyed as a Chef’s Forum Academy, including the great work that took place during the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
In advance of the taster day, all students in the schools were provided with samples of fresh strawberries, peaches and passion fruit, generously supplied by First Choice Produce, as well as three varieties of single-plantation chocolate supplied by Valrhona. This enabled the students to try the base ingredients featured in the exciting demonstrations they were about to view.
After the introductions, we headed to the kitchens of The Grill at The Dorchester where Head Chef Tom Booton took us through a delightful creation of his dish, ‘English Strawberries, Posset & Lemon Verbena Ice Cream’. Tom spoke of the importance of high-quality, local and seasonal produce. He also mentioned how the considered treatment of fine ingredients can result in beautiful, elegant, yet simple dishes. Tom went on to emphasise that “…in every mouthful, the guest should get a balance of the flavours and textures incorporated into the dish.” The dessert looked stunning and Tom had a very jealous audience as he tucked in to test out his own creation.
We then flew virtually to Dipna Anand, Chef Proprietor of Brilliant Restaurant, author and celebrity chef, to make two highly refreshing inspired cocktails using ‘Passion Fruit Two Ways’. First up, Dipna demonstrated how to make an alcohol-free ‘Passion Fruit Mojito’. We were taken through the origins of the Cuban cocktail, traditionally made from white rum and ‘muddled’ mint. Dipna used the same processes that would be used to make a traditional Mojito, but omitted the alcohol, replacing it with beautifully sweet and refreshing passion fruit pulp and juice.
For her second drink, Dipna made a Passion Fruit Lassi, a traditional Indian drink made from a natural yoghurt base. Dipna explained that there are many versions of ‘lassi’, some being sweet, others salty or savoury and even spicy. On this occasion, Dipna made a sweet passion fruit lassi, demonstrating how to finish cocktails with simple fruit and herb garnishes to enhance the visual appeal of the drinks to customers. Both drinks looked thirst-quenching and would provide a fresh fruit lift and sparkle at any meal occasion.
After her demonstration, Dipna said: “It was great to be taking part in the college’s taster day alongside The Chefs’ Forum, who always support students pursuing hospitality and catering. Students got a first-hand virtual experience of what to expect from the course and found the session extremely useful and encouraging. I showcased drinks for a change during this event, which went down a storm. It’s satisfying to know that through my skills and words of encouragement during the online session, students are convinced and positive about joining our brilliant industry.”
After a quick break, we returned to the kitchens at One Aldwych with Executive Chef, Dominic Teague. Dominic produced a delicate dish of ‘Poached Peaches and Vanilla Crème Fraiche’. Dominic explained the importance of trying to utilise fruit when it is at its very best in terms of ripeness. This also led to discussing how important it is to consider the condition of fruits when poaching them.
Dominic explained: “If fruits are ripe, they will need very little poaching time, perhaps none at all, and maybe best left to macerate and infuse in a flavoured liquid. Fruit that is underripe, however, will need a longer poaching time and perhaps required some additional sugar to add to the sweetness.”
At the end of his demonstration, Dominic went on to say: “How great to be able to share some knowledge and insight into our wonderful industry, especially as we come out of this unprecedented year. Full credit to The Chefs’ Forum for facilitating this great initiative. I hope the students enjoyed it as much as I did.”
The final demonstration was provided by Chef Laurian Veaudour, winner of ‘Bake Off: The Professionals’ 2020. Laurian hosted a chocolate tasting of three chocolates from Valrhona, France, one of the world’s leading single-plantation chocolate producers. The students shared their views on which style of chocolate they preferred, while Laurian produced an exquisite Valrhona Chocolate & Hazelnut Brownie with a Chocolate Whipped Ganache.
At the end of his demonstration, Laurian said: “It was such a pleasure to be a part of the taster day. It is great to inspire the new generation of chefs and bakers around the country, especially with the wonderful produce we can find on our doorsteps. It’s such a shame we couldn’t try all the dishes and products, however, recipe cards were sent to the schools for everyone to try at their leisure. We hope the taster day inspired the students and teachers to try making the recipes at school or perhaps even at home!”
Maggie Haddad, Careers Coordinator at Kensington Aldridge Academy said: “The event was super insightful, particularly for our Year 10 pupils who are yet to explore their post-16 options. The live and interactive experience (not to mention the edible goodies!) went down incredibly well and has even inspired a couple of our pupils to set up their own food blogs! All round, a great taster event.”
And Zara Sahir-Ahmed, from Brentside High School said: “The students really enjoyed tasting the food. We would love to see the demonstrations again in person.”
Nearly 100 students from the following 6 schools participated in the taster day with West London College: