From education to employment


Student chef Josie Wheeler, from Coleg y Cymoedd in Nantgarw in South West Wales, held her nerve on a tense day on Tuesday to win the Student Pastry Chef of the Year 2022.

Her dish of mini Black Forest entremet wowed the stellar pannel of judges at the The Hotel Cafe Royal who included Benoit Blin and Jamie Houghton from Le Manoir aux Quatr’Saisons, Michael Kwan from The Dorchester, Daniel Pearse from The Savoy and Thibaut Hauchard from Claridge’s and Douglas Oberson from Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester.

Organised by The Chefs’ Forum, the Student Pastry Chef of the Year competition is open to all pastry chefs currently in education. There is no age limit following industry demands for entries

Speaking about the event Catherine Farinha, Director of The Chefs’ Forum, said: “Josie Wheeler played a blinder. She is a worthy winner and I know all the judges really enjoyed what she created. The brief was to create something ‘grab and go’ and a mini Black Forest was such a clever idea. This year’s competition has blown us all away with the creativity on display and the number of entries from different age groups. We’re going to keep the competition like this from now on,”

Simon Coulson, HR Director at Hotel Café Royal said: “It is so important to us at Hotel Cafe Royal to host events like this. It is great for students to see what it’s like in a leading professional kitchen, to get support from great chefs but also to see what it like to work in a place like this, at the top level. It is so important to find and develop the next generation of chefs and hospitality professionals.

In second place was Shirin Azimiasl of Manchester College who made a passion fruit and vanilla tart. Third was Zarema Yalkhoroev from Leicester College with a chocolate tart with chocolate mousse, raspberry confit and raspberry coulis.

Daniel Pearse said: “All the entries were high and showed some great skills. All the judges were impressed. We just felt, overall, that Josie Wheeler’s Black Forest was the winner.”

The panel of eight judges, which includes Benoit Blin and Jamie Houghton (head judge) from Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Michael Kwan from The Dorchester, Thibault Houchard from Claridge’s, Chris Underwood from Artisserie, Daniel Pearse from The Savoy, Douglas Oberson from Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester and Neil Rippington, Hospitality Education Consultant and author selected the top eight desserts submitted at the semi-final stage.

The finalists:

  • Alex Williams – Halesowen College
  • Annie Carter – The Manchester College
  • Josie Wheeler – Coleg Y Cymoedd Nantgarw
  • Mina Mohsenie – Leicester College
  • Orla-Kate O’Neil – The Manchester College
  • Shirin Asl – The Manchester College
  • Zarema Yalkhoroeva – Leicester College

As Benoit Blin left, he expressed how impressed he had been with all eight entrants and offered the opportunity for all of them to come for a stage at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons to further ignite their passion and hone their obvious talent.

The Chefs‘ Forum would like to take this opportunity to thank all who participated this year and to sponsors Mitchell & Cooper, Taylor UK, Bragard, Matfer Bourgeat, Adande, First Choice Produce and Henley Bridge for suppling first class equipment and ingredients to make this competition final something truly spectacular.

Thank you to Martyn Watkins from Richkins Woodcraft who made the stunning wooden trophy.

This is firmly an annual event that all colleges and catering educators should put on their agenda.  Anyone interested in learning more about the competition with a view to registering their interest for 2023 should email [email protected]

Photo credit: Harry Elletson.

Related Articles