A 17-year-old refugee from Ukraine, who achieved perfect 100% scores in two skills competitions at Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC), was given a long, standing ovation as she collected an award.
Yuliia Batrak, who lives with her mum Liudmyla and seven-year-old sister Alona, fled their home in Kiev because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine just over a year ago and have made a temporary home in Colwyn Bay for the past nine months.
She has enrolled on a VRQ Level 1 in Hospitality course at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s Coleg Llandrillo campus and was encouraged by her tutor Glennydd Hughes to enter the WICC, organised by the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) and hosted by the college.
The decision proved a masterstroke as Yuliia won gold medals, securing a perfect score in both the knife skills for fruit and for vegetables and soup making classes.
To round off her success, she received the overall award at the WICC awards dinner last Thursday night for best live open class competitor.
“In all the years that I have been involved in the industry, I have never known a competitor to compete in skills classes and not drop a point,” said Arwyn Watkins, OBE, CAW president. “Yuliia scored 100 in both skills classes.”
Delighted Yuliia said: “I am so excited because I didn’t think I would win this award. When I entered these competitions, I had to get the gold medals because I have worked so hard.
“I must thank my tutor Glenn because he believed in me from the first day I started.”
Yuliia, whose father and brother are still in Kiev, thanked the people of Wales for welcoming her family. “Everyone is so welcoming to me and supporting Ukraine even though its 1,000 kilometres from the UK,” she added. “People here are so kind.”
Glennydd was thrilled by Yuliia’s success. “I interviewed Yuliia when she arrived here, asked how her English was and gave her a chance. She showed great potential from the beginning and she stays behind to practise after all the students have left.”
Samantha McIlvogue, assistant principal of Coleg Llandrillo, said: “We are delighted that Yuliia has been awarded two perfect scores, particularly as this has never before been achieved in the history of WICC competition.
“Competitions develop skills and build the confidence of our learners and are testimony to the fantastic training delivered by our staff. We are particularly proud of our learners’ achievements, having also won Best College 2023, Best Hygiene Award and Best Commis Chef.”
The WICC’s main sponsor is Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Government’s department representing the food and drink industry. Other sponsors include Castell Howell, Churchill, Major International, Riso Gallo, Dick Knives, MCS Tech Products, Hybu Cig Cymru/ Meat Promotion Wales, Cambrian Training Company and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai.
Yuliia Batrak receives her award from Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales and Arwyn Watkins, OBE, Culinary Association of Wales president.