The president of the organisation representing chefs in Wales has called on everyone in the catering and hospitality industry to work in partnership to deliver a sustainable future workforce.
Arwyn Watkins, from the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) who is also managing director of award winning training provider Cambrian Training Company, made the call at Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC) award dinner.
Four days of intense competitions and mouthwatering cooking by some of the best chefs in Europe contributed to another hugely successful WICC at Coleg Llandrillo, Rhos-on-Sea last week.
National culinary teams from Italy and Austria competed against Wales in the Battle for the Dragon contest over three days, top chefs contested the National and Junior Chef of Wales titles while international judges travelled from across the UK and Europe.
In addition, a wealth of competitions for chefs and waiting staff drew entries from colleges across Wales and England.
“This week has really demonstrated what is possible when you work in partnership with like-minded professionals,” said Mr Watkins, who thanked association members, Coleg Llandrillo staff, sponsors, competitors and judges for their support.
“This is an industry that is very important to the future of the Welsh economy. We need to continue to work with like-minded partners in Wales to ensure that we can increase the uptake of new entrants into our industry and retain them.
“We have to work with employers to share best practice on work life balances and the changing dynamics and expectations of the workforce. No longer can our industry survive on goodwill. We all have to think differently if we are to secure a sustainable workforce, which is not an easy ask but essential.”
Partnership working was reinforced with news that the CAW has agreed a new three-year deal with Coleg Llandrillo, which sees the college host the WICC and provide a base and coach for the Junior Culinary Team Wales.
Major International Limited also chose the WICC to present a cheque for £2,500 to the CAW. Corinna Jenner, from the company’s food service division, explained that the business makes a donation for every pot of stock that it sold and the money is shared between four UK chefs’ organisations at the end of each year.
Dragan Unic from Sweden, World Chefs’ continental director for Northern Europe, returned to judge at the WICC for the second year running and praised the improved standards of food presented by college competitors.
He was so impressed by one of the winning students last year that he offered her a job in Sweden when she completed her studies. Fay Norris is due to begin a job with a colleague of Mr Unic in 1675 Restaurant, Rusthallargarden, near Helsingborg on March 1. She will join him in his restaurant in October.
He also used this year’s event for talent spotting also and offered the same opportunity to Sarah Davies from Coleg Llandrillo who won two competitions at the WICC.
Mr Unic said he was inspired to provide career opportunities to talented young people by his own experience.
“When you spot talent, it is stupidity not take care of them and give them the best opportunities,” he added.
“That’s what happened to me. A chef saw some talent in me and gave me a chance. I did my apprenticeship with him for five years without any pay. Instead of paying me, he bought the best ingredients from around the globe for me to work with.
“When I finished my apprenticeship after five years, I was way ahead of all my colleagues in my age group.”
It’s not only talented students that he invites to his restaurant, however. Culinary Team Wales captain Danny Burke, co-owner of Olive Tree Catering, Hawarden, spent a couple days as guest chef last November.
A new annual skills award in memory of late judge Eric Bruce, who died late last year, which was presented by his friend Terry Woolcock, was won by Clyde Morales of Coleg Llandrillo.
The best college award went to Coleg Cambria and one its students, Emes Bolgyan, collected the excellence in overall hygiene management, sponsored by Ecolab. Dean Burnham, North Warwickshire College, won the best in show live award and Loughborough College won the best live team award.
The WICC are organised by the Culinary Association of Wales and main sponsor is Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government’s department representing the food and drink industry. Other sponsors include Meat Promotion Wales/Hybu Cig Cymru, Castell Howell, Harlech Foods, Nuttals, Churchill, MCS Tech, Rollergrill, Koppertcress and Dick Knives.