The Chefs’ Forum Celebrates a Great Week of Virtual Taster Days

The Chefs’ Forum was very proud to deliver two interactive School Taster Days this week with our Chefs’ Forum Academies at The Manchester College and Pembrokeshire College.

On Tuesday, we started in Manchester with Catherine Farinha, Founder of The Chefs’ Forum, welcoming the students, schools, and all participants to the taster event. Maxine Gunning, Head of Curriculum for Hospitality & Catering and Travel & Tourism at The Manchester College, introduced the students to the Hospitality and Catering department and its staff. A detailed overview of course options was provided, outlining the opportunities for students to enrol onto study programmes at an appropriate level.

The event started with a cheese tasting from South Caernarfon Creameries with artisan cheesemaker, Trystan Povey. All the schools participated in the cheese as samples were sent prior to the event. They compared a Welsh Slate Cavern Aged Cheddar and a Smoked Mature Cheddar cheese.

We then went live to the kitchens of Exose Grant Lopo-Ndinga, Chef Consultant & contestant and finalist on Masterchef: The Professionals 2019 and Dipna Anand (Owner of Brilliant Restaurant in London and regular guest on TV cookery shows – Dipna’s latest appearance was on ‘James Martin’s Saturday Morning’ programme last week!)

Rotating from one kitchen to the next, Exose produced his version of ‘Mac & South Caernarfon Creameries Cavern Aged Cheddar Cheese’, while Dipna made her famous South Caernarfon Creameries Smoked Mature Cheddar Cheese & Onion ‘Stuffed Parathas’. Both dishes looked delicious!

After her demonstration, Dipna said:

“It was great to be taking part in the college’s taster day alongside The Chefs’ Forum, who are always so supportive of students pursuing hospitality and catering. Students got a first-hand virtual experience of what to expect on the course and found the session extremely useful and encouraging. I showcased a recipe video of stuffed parathas which went down a storm. It’s satisfying to know that through my skills and words of encouragement during the online session, students are convinced and positive to join our brilliant industry.”

After a break, we moved onto Cwmfarm Charcuterie with artisan producer, Ruth Davies. Alongside Ruth’s engaging talk from ‘Salami HQ’ as she refers to the company’s manufacturing base, the students sampled Welsh salami and ‘nduja’ – a delicious, spreadable rich and spicy sausage.

We then travelled virtually to the kitchen of Doug Crampton, Head Chef at James Martin, Manchester. Doug demonstrated a great way to utilise the nduja by making a dish of ‘Baked Cwmfarm Nduja, Hen’s Eggs & Wild Garlic’ The dish looked so vibrant and tasty with striking colours, a beautifully simple dish suitable for a breakfast treat or brunch!

The final dish of the day was a sweet treat. The students were sent samples of Wickedly Welsh Chocolate, in which they compared its quality against a highly reputed Belgian chocolate. Chocolatier, Mark Owen took us through the production of the chocolate and the differences between the methods deployed. They were both delicious.

Pastry Chef Laurian Veaudour (Bake Off: The Professionals Winner 2020) provided us with the last dish of the day, producing a delicate ‘Orange & Wickedly Welsh Milk Chocolate Shortbread’. It’s such a shame we couldn’t try one but recipes cards were provided, so there was no excuse for not having a go at making them at home!

On Wednesday morning we travelled, virtually, south-west to the coast of Pembrokeshire to deliver a Taster Day on behalf of The Chefs’ Forum Academy at Pembrokeshire College, Wales.

Catherine again welcomed all the participating schools before passing to Wendy Weber, Head of Health, Childcare and Commercial Enterprise, to introduce the lecturing staff at the college, who provided a talk about the various courses available and the fantastic opportunities for students following their studies.

The students were then provided Marketing bags from Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales, alongside an inspirational talk and accompanying video from meat expert, Rhys Llywelyn. Rhys spoke about the fantastic natural environment in which Welsh meat is reared to create truly world-class produce. Somewhat surprisingly, we learnt that Welsh meat is exported all over the world with only a small percentage of the meat being consumed by the people in Wales. Rhys would like to see this change!

Following the talk, we were treated to simultaneous demonstrations from highly renowned chefs Dougie Balish (Head Chef at The Grove at Narberth) and Matt Waldron (Head Chef at The Stackpole Inn). Dougie took us through his ‘Spicy Welsh Beef, Avocado & Goats Cheese Tortilla’, a mouth-watering fusion featuring great Welsh meat and flavours of Mexico.

Switching from one kitchen to the other, Matt produced a spectacular dish of ‘Welsh Lamb Rump with Potato Puree, Roscoff Onion, Shallot, Peas & Wild Garlic’. Matt discussed the processes he used to produce such fine purees and delicate flavours. The dish looked amazing, if only we could have tasted it!

After a break, we were treated to the sweeter side of the kitchen, although one of the magic ingredients used was salt! Salt is an essential natural mineral we can’t survive without. It also has amazing properties as a flavour enhancer, taste modifier and suppressant of bitterness. That’s why the addition of a little salt makes sweet foods taste even better!

Pembrokeshire Sea Salt samples and jars of salted caramel were again sent to the schools for the students to sample. Josh Wright from Pembrokeshire Sea Salt showed us the methods in which salt is produced and dried from sea water and the award-winning artisan salt from Pembrokeshire is regarded as one of the most flavoursome in the world.

Showcasing the salt and caramel, Lisa Fearn, Chef Proprietor of The Pumpkin Patch Kitchen & Garden and Y Sied Cookery School, produced Brownie Cookies with Pembrokeshire Sea Salt & Salted Caramel, whilst a group of Professional Cookery students from the college baked alongside Lisa. The results were fabulous, getting the thumbs up from Lisa!

The final demonstration was provided by Chef, Laurian Veaudour (Bake Off: The Professionals Winner 2020). Laurian hosted a chocolate tasting of three chocolates from Valrhona, France, one of the world’s leading single-plantation chocolate producers. The students shared their views on which style of chocolate they preferred, while Laurian produced an exquisite Valrhona Chocolate & Hazelnut Brownie with a Chocolate Whipped Ganache.

At the end of the two days, Laurian said:

“It is such a pleasure to be a part of the taster days so we can inspire the new generation of chefs and bakers around the country, especially with the wonderful produce with can find on our doorstep.”

A real treat to finish the taster days and what a refreshing and inspiring way to spend three hours on a Tuesday and Wednesday morning!

Miss Palmer – Hospitality & Catering Teacher at Ysgol Greenhill School, Pembrokeshire added:

Our students found it extremely beneficial to see the wonderful facilities at the college. They were inspired by the live demonstrations and the use of technical terminology was useful for their upcoming exam.”

Participating schools at the Taster Day at The Manchester College were:

Participating schools at the Taster Day at Pembrokeshire College were: