Dorset Gin, Live-fire Grilling and Salmon Curing at Highcliff Marriott!

Dorset chefs gathered at the Highcliff Marriott yesterday (Monday 20th June) for a day of gin tasting, cookery demos and hospitality industry networking organised by The Chefs’ Forum. Highlights of the day included Executive Chef, Nick St.Peter demoing ‘Gin three ways’ and a fantastic Highcliff afternoon tea made and served by catering students at Bournemouth & Poole College and Hit Training.

Bournemouth and Poole College StudentGoats Cheese CanapeGuests were met at midday by a fantastic Conker Gin reception accompanied by stunning canapés made by Nick St. Peter and the students including, hot smoked salmon, kohlrabi and apple, Dorset Char “cocktail”, confit chicken and smoked garlic fritter, beetroot brulee with goats cheese and grapefruit, Banoffee profiterole and mini Highcliff pavlova.

The guests devoured the delicious canapés and took the opportunity to catch up with friends old and new.

L-R Catherine Farinha,  Nick St Peter, Christophe BaffosThe Chefs’ Forum Founder, Catherine Farinha then gave a welcome speech with Christophe Baffos Head of Hospitality & Tourism (Bournemouth & Poole College) and hosting chef, Nick St. Peter.  It was great for local employers to understand the importance of why it is so crucial that they support the next generation of hospitality professionals to lessen the National skills gap and encourage more young people into the industry.

Nick then gave a cookery demo three amazing dishes:

Chilli, lime and garlic scorched mackerel, lamb neck with redcurrant, basil and pinenut then Conker gin-cured salmon.

Conker Gin tastingRupert Hillier, producer of the fabulous local tipple gave a fantastic talk to the chefs about his unique selection of botanical to achieve such a distinct and delicious flavour.

Nick St. Peter is a great example of career progression in that he worked at Highcliff Marriott before a period and Marriott County Hall (London) and returned to the hotel as Executive Chef.  This just proves the career progression opportunities within the Marriott Group and also the wider hospitality industry.

The Highcliff Grill welcomed over fifty top chefs from across Dorset and Hampshire including The Chefs’ Forum Committee members Matt Budden (Bournemouth Hilton, formerly Executive Chef at Highcliff Grill), Russell Brown (Creative about Cuisine) and Andy McKenzie (Exclusive Chefs’ Academy).

Bournemouth and Poole College learners relished the opportunity to network with local employers as well as peers from Hit Training, an organisation offering work based learning.  The Chefs’ Forum encourages young people to start networking whilst still studying to make for a wider contacts base once they enter the world of work.

Bournemouth and Poole College Front of House StudentsBournemouth and Poole College, lauded by The World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS), a global network of top cooks, has recognised the college’s culinary education programme, labelling it one of the best 20 in the world. Students from this fantastic educational facility are currently serving apprenticeships and undertaking work experience with Nick St.Peter at Highcliff Marriott. Today was all about showcasing the skills they have learnt so far!

Nick St.Peter, Executive Chef at the High Cliff Grill, Bournemouth stated:

“It was good to see students engaging with my team and I, so that they can gain a better understanding of serving canapés and afternoon tea to large volumes of guests.  A room full of industry experts may well seemed like a ‘baptism of fire’ but each and every young person working with me today did a sterling job – I was very proud and impressed by both Bournemouth and Hit learners.”

Christophe Baffos added:  “The College has worked with The Chefs’ Forum for the last three years. As a College, we are looking to improve our links with Dorset employers in the catering industry and The Chefs’ Forum is a perfect vehicle to do this.  The Chefs’ Forum events help us to keep in touch with industry and improve communication with professional kitchens on a local level”.

The Chefs’ Forum launched five years ago and has since expanded to include highly accredited chefs, catering colleges and top suppliers from London to Cornwall and Wales to Kent.

Afternoon TeaCatherine Farinha, Founder of The Chefs’ Forum and event organiser concluded: “We have forged valuable links between the catering colleges and top chefs across the South of the UK and it is wonderful to stage another event in Dorset with Nick, who we have seen grown professionally from Sous Chef to Executive Chef in the time we have known him – This is extremely impressive. The event brought top chefs and students together with local employers.  Our events are a great opportunity for the next generation of top chefs and Front of House professionals learning from the very best in the business”.

The day finished with a fantastic Walter Rose BBQ and ‘live fire cooking’ demonstration by CCS  on the sunny terrace at the Highcliff – Guests were delighted that the weather brightened up beautifully for a perfect end to a perfect day, enjoying a meaty feast powered by the Kamado Joe ceramic grill.

Photography by Andrew Plant: