Putting on The Ritz

200 school students in West London were treated to a taste of the top drawer of London on Monday at a Hospitality Industry Taster Day, packed with live demos and entertainment – Show us a stage and we’ll give you a show!

West London College played host to the special student spectacular, with 11 invited schools getting a sneak peak of what a life in hospitality is like.

The worshipful Mayor of Hammersmith and Fulham Patricia Quigley and former student of West London College came to open the event.  She spoke of the importance of being able to cook and how lovely it was to see students from her constituency represented in such great numbers.

The demos were interspersed with fantastic music and dancing from Manchester rapper Lowkeylimit, Kit Sells and Jake Morgan – Our young audience really enjoyed the performances, and this is how we use music and dance to engage this age group.

Valentina Maschio from Gordon Ramsay Burger at Harrods built gourmet burgers, but not the sort most were used to.

Valentina invited students to help her make a smash burger on the FlashGRILL, a new edition to our demo stage from MCS Technical Products.

She also broke-in our brand new Unox Bakerlux convection oven that has been generously supplied by the market-leading oven manufacturer in creating some beautiful brioche buns, garnished with seeds and grains.

Aaj Fernando from The Ministry then took to the CookTek Helios double induction hobs to demonstrate how to make Asian gyoza dumplings, before Luigi Cagnin from The Ritz Hotel made perfect crêpe Suzette – the orange-flavoured pancake which is normally flambéed at the tableside.

Aaj also gave the students a butchery demo in the kitchen prior to the event using Aussie wagyu picanha which he has used in the Middle East and now at The Ministry in London. The young guests were able to try the wagyu beef in delicious canapés which were kindly sponsored by Meat & Livestock Australia.

As the demos were being performed, canapé-sized versions of the dishes were handed out to the students in the audience.

They also got to try pineberries, physalis and seasonal root vegetables butternut squash and celeriac kindly sponsored by First Choice Produce and Valrhona chocolate.

A final mocktail competition with Nathaniel Morales, Assistant Restaurant Manager at Gouqi London completed the two-hour session that also included lunch, kindly sponsored by Premier Foods.

Jo Wyke, Brand Manager – Foodservice said

“I really enjoyed the event today.  There was lots to taste and learn about. Premier Foods were delighted to sponsor pasta pots for lunch with our Homepride brand.  As the event spanned over lunchtime, it was important to ensure that our young visitors has a substantial, nutritious lunch as well as all of the lovely canapés, mini sliders, fruit, chocolate and mocktails.”

Head of Curriculum at West London College, Denise Charles, said: “We love these taster days that are organised by The Chefs’ Forum. They give school students an opportunity to come and visit and see what we do at the college and to get an insight into the sort of establishments we work with. It was great to work with Luigi from The Ritz and to sample Gordon Ramsay’s burgers. The cocktail competition with Nathaniel was also great fun.”

Catherine Farinha, Director of The Chefs’ Forum, said: “A huge thank you to all our participants and to West London College for their continued support. Aaj Fernando and Nathaniel Morales rounded out a brilliant morning and we love it when we can bring in such dedicated professionals from the best hotels and restaurants to work with schools and students. It’s what having a Chefs’ Forum Academy is all about.”

All the students who helped-out with the demos won a subscription to CKBK, a fantastic online recipe repertoire of the finest cookbooks and the winners of the cocktail competition won dinner for two in Taste restaurant at the college.

There were past students showcased as success stories, as well as current students who had previously attended our Taster Days at the college in previous years.  What we are doing is definitely working in driving-up college registrations year on year, making a valuable contribution to solving the chef shortage.

The Chefs’ Forum is looking to expand its network of Chefs’ Forum Academies across the UK and would be more than happy to stage similar events at FE colleges around the country.

Next week sees the demo stage and Hospitality Industry Taster Day event travel to Coleg Gwent, with Cambria and South & City College Birmingham hosting in March and April.

Photography & film by Carlos Farinha.