This week, Compass Group UK and Ireland held its annual Compass Apprentice Chef of the Year competition, with six Apprentice Chefs from across the business battling it out for the coveted title and the opportunity for their dish to be cooked at the annual Apprentice Chef of The Year VIP Dinner for Compass Executives later this month.
Each competitor created three courses, cooked within a three-hour time limit at the Compass HQ in Chertsey. ESS Government Services Apprentice Chef Agnieszka Bernaciak took the first place, with second place going to Nathan Racey of Levy UK and third place was awarded to Restaurant Associates’ Dylan Patel.
After months of hard work through multiple lockdowns, the chefs plated up their menus for the panel of esteemed judges – Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing headed up the judging panel alongside long-time competition guru and Culinary Director, Nick Vadis; Paul Mannering, Chef Academy Principle of HIT Training; Mark Belford, Chef Academy Vice Principle of HIT Training.
Following the announcement that she had won, Agnieszka Bernaciak of ESS Government Services said: “I’m still in shock, but so happy with what I’ve achieved in this competition. I really didn’t expect to win, so to be named as the winner was just amazing. I love creating beautiful plates of food, obviously taste is key, but after that, presentation is the most important thing for me.”
Compass was lucky enough to enlist the help of revered chef Marcus Wareing, who also presented the awards. He said, “It takes a very brave chef to enter into a competition, when you spend your time working in teams, especially at apprenticeship level, to compete on your own can be hard.
'I judged the semi-finals as well and from then to today, all I can say is wow! What an amazing achievement. Every single finalist has improved so much in such a short space of time – you’ve gone home and studied your menus and that really showed today.”
Jonathan Foot, Head of Apprenticeships and Early Careers at Compass Group UK & Ireland, commented, “The last year has been challenging for the whole hospitality industry, and I couldn’t be prouder that we took the decision to keep our apprenticeship programme operating throughout the pandemic.
'This enabled our apprentices to continue to progress and achieve, which in turn meant we could run our annual Compass Apprentice Chef of the Year competition. It’s been so rewarding to watch all the apprentices who took part and demonstrated their resilience, determination and skills.
'This competition is evidence of the benefits of Apprenticeships in supporting the skills development of our future talent.”
Robin Mills, Compass Group UK and Ireland Managing Director, commented, “This whole competition is a huge learning experience and I’d like to say a big well done to all our apprentice chefs who took part at every stage of the competition.
'Many years ago, I learned that these competitions are mainly about the learning and there is a chef family which is all about coaching, developing and sharing, and that’s such a fantastic thing to see here. So, to hear how much our people have developed from the semi-final to the final, is what it’s all about.”
Compass Apprentice Chef of the Year Competitors 2021:
Gold: Agnieszka Bernaciak (ESS Government Services)
Silver: Nathan Racey (Levy UK & Ireland)
Bronze: Dylan Patel (RA Group)
Finalists: Thomas Scott (ESS Defence); Tracey Breward (ESS Defence); and Ewa Kruczek (Chartwells)