The Chefs’ Forum Tackles the Shortage of Pastry Chefs – National Finalists Announced

In response to the much-publicised shortage of skilled pastry chefs and the concern over the numbers coming through, The Chefs’ Forum recently launched a national competition to highlight the issue and showcase the great work currently taking place in UK colleges, alongside the opportunities for young people to thrive in this creative and rewarding sector of the industry.

It is well documented that there is a shortage of chefs, especially pastry chefs. Talk to the owners, managers and chefs in industry and it is highly likely they will tell you the same thing. During the lockdown periods, many chefs returned to their home countries and may not return anytime soon, if ever. The implications of Brexit have not helped matters!

A skilled pastry chef is an asset to the kitchen for the good reason that pastry items often have the highest profit margins. However, it is easy to forget that the skills set of a pastry chef goes beyond the dessert menu.

The pastry chef is the scientist in the kitchen and right now food science is of immense value. A pastry chef measures everything down to minute proportions. The temperature of the oven is critical. Volumes, relationships between ingredients and much more all need to be measured. The art of pastry is the last detail. Underpinning everything is the science.

It’s not always the same in the main kitchen, where the chefs are often not so clinical, having more room for interpretation and adjustment, and seasoning is applied to taste. In the pastry kitchen, the opposite is true. From a lack of precision and measurement, poor results follow.

The Chefs’ Forum Young Pastry Chef of the Year, 2021, competition aims to celebrate the creativity of highly skilled young pastry chefs and the abundance of fantastic commodities and produce they have at their disposal to develop mouth-watering products. The first-round entries were collated on Friday 7th May and were judged over the weekend by Jamie Houghton, Pasty sous-chef at Le Manoir aux quat’saisons and President of the UK Pastry team, and Neil Rippington, Director of Education at The Chefs’ Forum.

Jamie said:

“After reviewing all the entries with Neil, it was great to see that the level of each student’s work was so high. This is going to make a very exciting semi-final. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the students come up with during this stage and reviewing their entries to select those that go through to the final in June.”

The semi-finalists have now been sent details of the next challenge, which will see them design a multi-layered entremet using Valrhona chocolate. The young pastry chefs have been sent samples of five chocolates to choose from and the small equipment they need in a pack, supplied by sponsors Mitchell and Cooper. The students will select one chocolate to take forward to produce the entremet for digital submission. Whichever chocolate the students select to make their entremet, they will be sent the chocolate required, with great thanks to sponsors, Valrhona.

Neil said:

“It was great to see so many colleges enter the competition. We have entries from all corners of the UK and it was reassuring to see the calibre of the entries at this point. We want the competition to be accessible and fair to all students, which is why we designed the semi-final task with tight boundaries but also with great scope for creativity. There are some great prizes, opportunities, and experiences available to the young pastry chefs, so I wish them good luck in the semi-final task over the next few weeks and I look forward to meeting the eight finalists at the final in June.”

The 20 finalist are:

Adam Barrett Doncaster College
Adam Gough Hopwood Hall College
Annie Carter The Manchester College
 Antony Martorana Hertford Regional College
Austin Howsam Northampton College
Bethany Thompson Hertford Regional College
Connor Pogson Halesowen College
Daisy Parsons West Herts College
Dan James Northampton College
Ellie Jai McKenzie Hopwood Hall College
Emily Nightingale West Herts College
Freya Pugh Blackpool & The Fylde College
Holly Jackson Hopwood Hall College
Kacey Sykes West Herts College
Keal Bollers Hertford Regional College
Kimberley Nutley West Suffolk College
Morgan Upcott Coleg Gwent
Tanyawan Brown West Suffolk College
Taylor-Jade Frendo The Manchester College
Unaisa Hussain Leicester College

The semi-final task submission deadline is Friday 28th May at 17:00, with the eight finalists competing for the title on Tuesday 15th June, live at the West London College.

Judges are: