Rum Baba Wins Student Pastry Chef of the Year 2023

Kai Whittaker (23) 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 May 10th May at West London College.

Whittaker, Patisserie and Confectionery Level 2 student is also enrolled at West London College which brought great joy to the hosting college.

There were two sets of winners. The visiting chefs and suppliers judged based on looks and the pastry judges chose the final 3. Kai Whittaker’s baba au rum, soaked in rum and filled with coconut chocolate ganache and cream.

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 2nd 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.

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 and third to Jack, 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 Catherine Farinha, Chefs’ Forum Founder afterwards. “We are so proud for West London and the work our Chefs’ Forum Academy does here.”

Whittaker’s winning dish comprised of a rum baba (baba au rum) with passion fruit curd, coconut chocolate ganache, cream and white chocolate cream, Italian meringue and pineapple tartar. It was plated on a Gio Gold plate by Wedgwood and used chocolate by Republica del Cacao, kindly supplied by Henley Bridge Ingredients.

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 was delighted to host the competition, she 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 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 and they were all an absolute credit to their colleges – The future of patisserie in the UK is looking very bright indeed!”

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!

Kai Whittaker, West London College

Second place
Katrina Tañas Atienza, University of West London

Third place
Jack Morris, Coleg y Cymoedd

Husnaa Kaka, Leicester College
Gemma Collick, Leicester College
Mali Leese, Coleg y Cymoedd
Oraib Al-Shareeda, West London College
Abby Webster, North Kent College