Less than a fortnight ago the Essential Cuisine team and I were lucky enough to witness a young chef from the world-famous L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria, cook his way to an impressive victory in the 15th annual North West Young Chef competition.
In those 15 years, we have seen the technical bar raised time and time again – leaving us in no doubt of the region’s growing importance to the culinary world. Chefs like Thomas Reeves and Daniela Tucci before him, have, in victory, proven that they possess the talent and temperament to go all the way.
So how is it that the standard seems to rise each year? For me it’s an improvement in the level of nurturing and mentoring that these young people receive. As chefs, we all remember that lecturer or team member that took us under their wing, or simply led by example for us to follow. It’s the people that invest their time in you, for little or no reward other than to see you progress or compete at a high level. These people have always been around albeit in shorter supply, but whether it’s issues like the chef shortage, those keen to safeguard skills in the kitchen, or simply improve the reputation of kitchen life in general, a proliferation of modern kitchen mentors seems to be making the difference, particularly to the young chefs in our competition.
Helping move young people up into a happy and successful career in professional kitchens has never been more important. Firing that desire can begin even before catering college or a first work placement. That’s why we have for many years worked with the Adopt a School Trust, the national charity of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, to help deliver food education from the floorboards up in primary and senior schools.
Our brigade of Essential Cuisine chefs are encouraged to adopt school sites in their local areas and marked the inaugural Chefs Adopt a School Week, held this February, by delivering a programme of inspirational and fun cookery workshops and classes in schools throughout the UK. We also relish welcoming local schools to our Cheshire HQ for regular, interactive and fun cookery sessions.
Last week we were proud to hand a cheque over for £8,000 to Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, Sara Jayne Stanes OBE – the fruits of a December promotion for the sale of our Premier Veal Jus – which will hopefully go some way to continuing the stellar work that Sara Jayne and her team perform day-in-day-out to try and safeguard the health of the next generation.
It has never been more critical for school children to develop a better understanding of food and nutrition, to work with food and enjoy experimentation with flavours. Engaging with them at a grass-roots level is not only vital in helping them understand the importance of their individual well-being but is also key to ensuring a steady stream of talent for the hospitality industry in the years to come.