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Two West London College Professional Cookery Level 3 Apprentices Win Medals at ‘International Salon Culinaire’

Ratmir Plokhov and Laurie Ballard with their Medal Haul from the International Salon Culinaire Competition

Two West London College Professional Cookery Level 3 apprentices were awarded medals at the International Salon Culinaire competition which took place at ExCeL, London in March (20 March 2023). Ratmir Plokhov (19) and Laurie Ballard (21) both achieved Silver in the ‘Lemon Sole Filleting’ category, sponsored by M&J Seafood, and Laurie also achieved a Bronze medal in the ‘Perfect Pasta’ category.

Last year, Ratmir and Laurie progressed from studying Professional Cookery Level 2 at West London College to become employed as apprentices at the RAF Club . They study one day a week at College to achieve their Professional Cookery Level 3 qualifications and work four days a week at the RAF Club, which is a club for RAF officers and their families.

For about a month prior to the International Salon Culinaire competition, Ratmir and Laurie practised filleting white fish to achieve greater speed and enhanced presentation.

Ratmir said: “Chef Michael Dutnall at the RAF Club entered us for the competition and the Club’s sous chef Jonathan Alexander coached us in filleting plaice.”

The International Salon Culinaire is a highly prestigious competition and young chefs throughout the UK take part, some coming from as far away as Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as those taking part from the north of England, the southwest and southeast. The awards range from gold, silver, bronze and merit to participation.

Chef Michael said: “It was really great to see the enthusiasm Laurie and Ratmir put into training, practising and improving their skill sets, each going the extra mile, even a trip to Billingsgate fish market in the early hours to train with the Club’s fish supplier. Achieving a well earned silver medal each was their reward. Congratulations to them both, Superstars.”

In Ratmir’s Lemon Sole Filleting category, 17 young chefs competed. While none achieved gold, five were awarded silver, including Ratmir, one bronze, four merit and six achieved participation awards. Laurie competed in the same category but with 29 other budding chefs. In his heat just one chef won gold, fifteen won silver – including Laurie, four bronze, seven merit and two were recognised for their participation.

In Laurie’s ‘Perfect Pasta’ category, 22 young chefs competed in his heat. Two won gold, four silver, eight bronze – including Laurie, and eight achieved merit. For this heat, Laurie created a pasta dish using Porcini mushrooms and pureed leeks in a white sauce.

Ratmir said: “My experience at International Salon Culinaire has given me the confidence to continue to compete. Later in the year, I will be competing in the Craft Guild of Chefs Graduation Awards.”

Laurie said: “It was a great experience to compete because it showed me how well I can perform when I am put under pressure.”

Denise Charles, Head of Service Industries at West London College

Denise Charles, Head of Service Industries at West London College said: “West London College is thrilled that two of our chef apprentices have achieved medals at International Salon Culinaire which is a highly competitive event, attracting the brightest and most talented young hospitality professionals.”

If you are interested in a course in Hospitality and Catering at West London College, visit the link to apply at

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