The Chefs’ Forum ‘Welsh Chapter’ Showcase Spanish Gastronomy at Bar 44, Cardiff

Monday 29 February saw over seventy top chefs from across Wales gather at the uber cool Bar 44, Westgate St,  Cardiff, for and inspirational day of Spanish cookery demonstrations, knowledge-sharing and networking.  Budding young chefs aged 14-15 from Cowbridge Comprehensive School worked with edHea Head Chef Manuel Monzon (Bar 44 Cardiff) and Head Chef Thomas Maynard (Bar 44 Penarth) to prepare and serve spectacular Spanish canapés or ‘pintxos’ for a tough audience of culinary experts and industry people.

Student making canapesSpanish cuisine is famed for being varied, intriguing and above all, absolutely delicious and his is why Welsh chefs flocked in their droves to this prolific industry event at the Cardiff venue of Bar 44’s three Spanish Tapas bars in South Wales with premises in Cardiff, Cowbridge and Penarth.  The Chefs’ Forum holds quarterly events to give chefs opportunity to meet their peers in a relaxed environment to share knowledge and expertise.  The Bar 44 Group of Tapas Bars bring the very best food, drink and hospitality from modern Spain to the heart of South Wales

Having launched five years ago in Bristol, popular demand meant that this well-renowned catering industry organisation has now launched across the Severn Bridge – The Welsh Chapter of The Chefs’ Forum is now a year old with more great venues across Wales booked for quarterly events the rest of 2016.

The Chefs’ Forum cross-pollinates the hospitality industry enabling chefs to talk to local suppliers, equipment manufacturers and catering colleges whilst creating employment opportunities for students

Cowbridge Comp studentsThe event commenced with a terrific pintxo and cava reception where students created and served bite-sized delights from the Bar44:

The canapés went down a storm and were a great prelude to the welcome speech delivered by Operations Manager Natalie Isaac, Chef Manuel Monzon, Chefs’ Forum Founder Catherine Farinha and Food Technology teacher Nathalie Singh.

Manuel DemoNext on the agenda was a cookery demonstration by Manuel Monzon, showcasing the rare unique quality of fresh ibérico pork cuts, slow braised as well as served rare in his dish of

‘Seared presa ibérica, beronia crianza braised cheek, charred calçot, Jerusalem artichoke’

Chef Thomas Maynard form the Penarth restaurant then showcased British shellfish with seasonal and Spanish produce cooking:

‘Razor clams, chorizo, mint, fino’

Grace cooking her winning dishThe students then took the floor in a Spanish Tortilla-making competition with Grace Jagger being judged as the winner for her impressive omelette! She won a voucher for hot chocolate and churros at the Cowbridge Bar 44 for her and three friends!

Sherry TastingA sherry tasting paired to traditional Spanish nibbles rounded off the day at Bar 44 and the event proved a resounding success.

The general consensus was that the students were a credit to their school and that they really maximised on the event.  Guests witnessed learners talking to employers and suppliers, giving a very professional first impression.

Manuel Monzon, Head Chef at Bar 44 (Westgate St) commented:
“The Students were brilliant today and I really enjoyed hosting The Chefs’ Forum at Bar 44.  This is the second event I have held with The Chefs’ Forum and I feel that it is invaluable for our industry.  Authenticity quality of produce passion and drive from the owners is communicated through everything we do here.

Natalie Isaac, Operations Manager at Bar 44 added:

“The success of Bar 44 Tapas Y Copas as a concept means that we now have three great Tapas Bars in Cardiff, Cowbridge and Penarth. It is crucial that we as employers collectively inspire the next generation so we can employ talented young people to work in our restaurants and do something to combat the shortage of chefs in our industry.  Events like this really to show students how great chef life and careers in hospitality can be.  My personal aim is to change perceptions of hospitality jobs as transient, rather that they are considered as a profession with real career progression opportunities.”

Canapes served by studentIngredients for the canapés and demos were donated by Chefs’ Forum sponsors Total Produce, Mevalco, Brindisa and Gonzalez Byass. Chefs’ Forum events are dependent on this much-valued support to stage events for the good of the industry.

There was a great deal of positive feedback from students and staff Cowbridge Comprehensive School.

Speaking about her experience of the day, Nathalie Singh, Design & Technology Teacher at the school said:

“The Chefs’ Forum gives my learners the opportunity to develop their culinary skills and be part of this great gastronomic experience.  It was a great opportunity for our students to work with Manuel the talented Bar 44 chefs and I was very impressed with the way that they networked with employers. We are very much looking forward to working with The Chefs Forum at other events throughout the year.”

Manuel MonzonChefs’ Forum Founder, Catherine Farinha concluded:
“We’ve had a fantastic experience here at Bar 44. Manuel, Natalie and their team have been a joy to work with and a real inspiration to the learners from Cowbridge Comprehensive.  I have received a great deal of positive feedback from chefs and learners alike which is extremely rewarding.  Spanish Gastronomy proved a real hit with our members and I look forward to many more Welsh events as The Chefs’ Forum continues to flourish.”

Chefs, suppliers or colleges interested in joining The Chefs’ Forum and attending events should contact Catherine Farinha on 07585 700030.

Photography by Craig Howarth: