The Heat is ON at Henley

The true spirit of the Craft Guild Major Series is brought very much to light as new and returning colleges crank up the heat in the Midlands.
Historically viewed as one of the UK’s premier student chef competitions, thanks to the flawless organisation of Henley College Coventry, who hosted for the second consecutive year, the recent Midlands heat of the Craft Guild’s Major Series was not only a triumph of young talent but a tangible manifestation of what is in essence, the real nature and substance of this long-standing annual event. Open to Junior and Senior student chefs and colleges across the nation, the Major Series has always had one central aim: to foster and nurture the up and coming chefs of the future. Not only does this competition provide students with invaluable hands-on experience, the chance to put their acquired skills to the test and pitch themselves against their peers in what might be their first inauguration into the world of culinary competitions but provides participating colleges a wonderful platform for the sharing of practice and to engender that healthy sense of competition. Moreover, with the Live Two Course challenge giving its winner and runner up a coveted chance to appear in the Live finale, which for this Series is scheduled to take place at Hotelympia 2018, it is definitely an asset for students’ prospective CVs.
With an excellent turn out on the day, Henley College was a hive of activity and a great atmosphere from the off. Not only were standards high across the board but the competition buzz was audible and felt both in the kitchen and front of house, amongst the students and their respective lecturers alike. “This was the second year we have attended. In comparison to last year, there were a lot more competitors. Really good live cook-offs with an amazing hustle and bustle within the kitchens and restaurants. A great competition,’ were the comments from John Starns, Restaurant Lecturer and representative for North Warwickshire and Hinckley College, who were amongst the three external colleges joining hosts Henley on the day.
“This year our students were really eager to enter all of the classes, including the statics, even if glazing was something entirely new to them. The Major Series is a great way for our students to enhance their skills. When they come to compete, they are up against likeminded individuals. They can see how they match up. How other young chefs work. It also helps instil that working standard. Faced with 20-30 minutes to prepare a dish, everything has to be precise. Their mis-en-place has to be ready. They need to be able to work cleanly, think about their seasoning, presentation and do everything they can to get their dishes out on time. A great incite into what a real kitchen is all about” was the feedback from Ian Jaundoo, Executive Head Chef of Academy Restaurant and Café at the City of Liverpool College.
Even newcomers to the Series, Loughborough College, certainly endeavoured to start as they mean to go on. No stranger to the culinary arena himself, Bronze medallist in the 2016 Culinary Olympics, Chef Lecturer and Programme Area Lead Darren Creed explained why Loughborough had decided to #takeupthechallenge. “This was the first of many Series for our students. We had a great take up, bringing a team of eight. Not only are competitions like this a way for student chefs to showcase their ability, meet judges and get constructive feedback from real chefs in the industry but they give them the opportunity to put what they are studying into practice and context. In the Major Series they are tasked with creating modern dishes using Major’s products with an eye to what is trending now in the industry, like the Live Street Food Class and the Two Course Challenge. From a college’s perspective, these are brilliant classes as we were able to incorporate them into our own menus and practice with very little extra costs. It was great to see how our hard work came together on the day.”
Not only was the competition hot but Guest Judge, Clive Jones of Catermasters marked a distinct rise in standard. “The calibre of competition this year has definitely risen. Not only did the students demonstrate a broad range of aptitude, from the traditional to more contemporary techniques, cooking sous-vide and experimenting with textures but the overall execution was very good.”
Winner of the Two Course challenge on the day was Toby Sheffield from Henley College. Sheffield will go on to compete in the Live cook-offs at Hotelympia 2018. Keen to sing his praises was Craft Guild Judge, Wayne Harris. “The Henley heat has epitomised what this competition is all about. The young chef that won the Two Course Challenge was a previous finalist who on that occasion did not do himself justice. How satisfying it was to see just how far he has come on in the two years since. This is why I love this competition. I am proud to be part of it and to work with Major International whose continued support helps the competition grow and improve year on year.”
“A really inspirational day!” was the summing up of Chef Lecturer James Brooke from hosts Henley College Coventry.  “I hope to see more colleges get involved next year.”
And Major could not agree more…
Do you think YOU or YOUR students have what it takes to compete? Find out more about the Major Series and download the latest brochure at the chef’s base:

Be inspired & Go Create!