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Student Wins 2023 Student Pastry Chef of the Year

West London College Patisserie and Confectionery Level 2 student Kai Whittaker won the 2023 Student Pastry Chef of the Year competition, organised by leading chef networking organization, The Chefs’ Forum. The high-profile event with a star-studded judging panel was held on Wednesday 10 May at Hammersmith & Fulham College. Oraib Al-Shareeda, West London College Professional Cookery Level 3 student was also one of the hugely talented eight finalists to take part in the exciting, but challenging, contest.

Judges (Back) - Nelson Sa, Thibault Hauchard, Michael Kwan, Biju Joshwa, Michael D'Angelo, Benoit Blin, Cherish Finden, Enrico Carloni, Franciane Tartari
Student Chefs (Front) - Kai Whittaker, Mali Leese, Jack Morris, Amy Webster, Katrina Tañas Atienza, Gemma Collick, Husna Kaka, Oraib Al-Shareeda
Judges (Back) – Nelson Sa, Thibault Hauchard, Michael Kwan, Biju Joshwa, Michael D’Angelo, Benoit Blin, Cherish Finden, Enrico Carloni, Franciane Tartari Student Chefs (Front) – Kai Whittaker, Mali Leese, Jack Morris, Amy Webster, Katrina Tañas Atienza, Gemma Collick, Husna Kaka, Oraib Al-Shareeda

There were two sets of winners; the visiting chefs and suppliers judged based on presentation and ‘looks’, and the pastry judges chose the final three. Kai Whittaker’s baba au rhum, was soaked in rum and filled with coconut chocolate ganache and cream. It was plated on a Gio Gold plate by Wedgwood and used chocolate by Republica del Cacao, kindly supplied by Henley Bridge Ingredients.

The baba also contained passion fruit curd, pineapple and mint – topped with perfect crowns of Italian meringue. Delicious? The judges thought so and the reason why it was judged best overall – Kai’s plated dessert won the judges’ hearts, and he was also voted in second place for ‘looks only’ by a tough audience of over 50 chefs who attended the event, to ensure the room of top chefs agreed with the decision.

Kai Whittaker preparing his rhum au baba
Kai Whittaker preparing his rhum au baba

 Who were the judges?

Kai received a hand-painted trophy by luxury tableware brand, Wedgwood, which is a fantastic memento of his wonderful achievement.

Second place went to Katrina Tañas Atienza from the University of West London and third to Jack Morris, Coleg y Cymoedd, who each won an amazing goody bag packed with vouchers, Wedgwood cake stands, Koppert Cress vanilla and a whole host of goodies from Henley Bridge, Adande Refrigeration, Mitchell & Cooper, Matfer Bourgeat, First Choice Produce, Bragard and Taylor UK

“It’s a major triumph for the hosting college,” said Chefs’ Forum founder Catherine Farinha, afterwards. “We are so proud of West London College and the work our Chefs’ Forum Academy does here.”

Kai told the Chefs’ Forum: “It is such a privilege to win this great competition. I can’t believe it. The judging panel is as good as it gets. Wow!”

Denise Charles, Head of Curriculum for Service Industries at West London College said: “We were delighted to host this prestigious competition for the second time and enter it for the third year running. We were absolutely over the moon to have two of our students in the final and that one of our learners won.  We really are so proud of Kai and the hard work he has put into this competition.  I would like to thank all finalists and their lecturers for visiting and cooking at West London College yesterday. They were all an absolute credit to their colleges. The future of patisserie in the UK is looking very bright indeed!”

Franciane Tartari, lead judge said: “This year we set a high bar for the students, and they really delivered. Kai Whittaker’s rum baba was a real demonstration of skill and showed why it is so important to study the craft of pastry. Every element of his dish was perfect, and he was a worthy winner in a strong field.”

Catherine Farinha said: “The Student Pastry Chef of the Year Competition is an important part of our calendar and to get so many interested students who are keen to be involved is very encouraging. This year’s finalists all gave everything and it was a joy to watch from the sides. A big thank you to West London College for hosting and to all our amazing judges and suppliers who made it possible. Huge congratulations to all 8 finalists and we would love you to enter again if you are still in college next year – We’re certain you have an extremely bright future ahead of you!”

Oraib Al-Shareeda preparing for the competition
Oraib Al-Shareeda preparing for the competition
  • Winner
    Kai Whittaker, West London College
  • Second place
    Katrina Tañas Atienza, University of West London
  • Third place
    Jack Morris, Coleg y Cymoedd
  • Finalists
    Oraib Al-Shareeda, West London College 
    Husnaa Kaka, Leicester College 
    Gemma Collick, Leicester College 
    Mali Leese, Coleg y Cymoedd
    Abby Webster, North Kent College 
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