On Tuesday 15 June 2021, the final for The Chefs’ Forum Young Pastry Chef of the Year 2021 took place at Hammersmith & Fulham College. Eight finalists, who all travelled to London to compete in person against their peers, had been selected from twenty exceptional semi-finalists over the spring bank holiday weekend. The expert panel of judges virtually marked the entries from the semi-finalists, who were competing from colleges all across the UK.
On the day, the atmosphere was electric as the young chefs arrived at the college to compete head-to-head, each creating their own entremet concept, live in a competitive environment. The challenge required the students to produce a chocolate-inspired entremet consisting of at least four layers, using a chosen chocolate from a range of five, carefully selected and supplied by sponsors, Valrhona.
The winning student was Unaisa Hussein (17), a Patisserie and Confectionery Diploma Level 3 student at Leicester College with her ‘Tropical Entremet’ incorporating Valrhona white Opalys chocolate, passion fruit, mango and coconut.
Unaisa said: “This is the first competition I have ever entered and to win it is absolutely incredible. It has been an honour to be a part of this competition, especially being a finalist. It was a difficult challenge as all of the other finalists were brilliant and produced some spectacular entremets. Despite tough conditions and to have won against such strong competitors feels really special. I’m also extremely happy to receive a KitchenAid stand mixer from Mitchell & Cooper, as I have always wanted one and can’t wait to start using it!”
Unaisa’s lecturer, Dan Murphy was delighted to have accompanied her to the final, he said: “This is a fantastic achievement, and I am so very proud of Unaisa. It was great to share her success with her family who came with us today. The competition was really inspirational, extremely well-organised and a wonderful experience for all involved. It was great to visit West London College and meet students and teaching peers from other colleges – I am really excited for Unaisa and the world-class culinary journey ahead of her as she embarks upon her rotational stage across the judges’ kitchens.”
The standard of the entries was impressive, and the creativity shown by the students was amazing. The consideration of textures and flavours showed great imagination and careful thought in terms of the eating experience.
Chair of judges, Jamie Houghton of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and President of the UK Pastry Team, said: “The students were absolutely amazing today and the standard of work was sensational. There could only be one winner – however, all eight finalists will embark on a rotational stage around the judges’ kitchens to give them the best opportunity of showcasing their skills and acquiring new ones from the best pastry chef talent in the country. I just want to say a huge thank you to everybody who entered and supported the competition and very much look forward to accompanying our winner, Unaisa Hussein to Valrhona HQ in France as her prize once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted – she has a very bright future ahead of her I’m sure.”
The eight finalists who took part were:
Neil Rippington, Director of Education at The Chefs’ Forum, said: “Supporting Jamie and the team of judges was a pleasure. I was enthused by the number and standard of entries; it shows what great talent we have in colleges throughout the UK. The competition celebrated this absolutely and showcased the career potential in such a creative and rewarding profession. At a time when the chef shortage is being cited on social media every day, it is crucial that we nurture and encourage young chefs and help them be the best they can possibly be. This is the way to solve the chef shortage and it is wonderfully supportive lecturers like all those who attended today that will make a massive difference to students’ career prospects. The sense of pride resonated through the whole day which was an extremely positive and well-needed lift after a very difficult year.”
The judges were thrilled and inspired by the enthusiasm and dedication shown by all of the students who entered the competition. The judges commented on how difficult it had been to select only eight of the twenty high-quality entrants to go through from so many high-quality entries, but this is the nature of competition.
Great thanks and appreciation go out to the judges for their contributions and time invested in the competition. They really enjoyed tasting the finished products, as well as analysing the skills and techniques used.
The Judges, pictured below, were:
Denise Charles, Head of Hospitality and Catering at West London College, said: “I’m delighted to see so many important professional chefs here today, who have given up their time to help nurture the outstanding talent of the next generation coming through in hospitality. I was very proud to see Michael Kwan who studied here well over ten years ago returning as a judge and to see what a high-profile career he has had since he left the college. Michael Kwan studied for a post-graduate qualification in Confectionery and Patisserie at West London College in 2009. He went on to work for Michelin-starred restaurants The Fat Duck and Hakkasan, amongst others, and he is currently Head Pastry Chef at the Hotel Café Royal.”
Catherine Farinha, Director and Founder of The Chefs’ Forum concluded: “I am really pleased that the competition was taken so seriously by the students and the colleges. The finished entries were way beyond expectations and the quality of the students’ work was outstanding and extremely well thought through. I very much look forward to making this an annual competition and the feedback received from the lecturers, judges and students on the organisation and execution of the event has been overwhelmingly positive – a brilliant team effort to support the pastry sector within our industry.”