Springboard FutureChef competition sees record number of female finalists

Almost 70% of finalists in a national competition to find the UK's most talented young chef are female, suggesting that more young women are being inspired to seek careers in the culinary sector.

Hosted by the UK hospitality charity, Springboard, the competition is supported by the likes of Clare Smyth and Tom Kerridge, the former being the first and only British woman to win three Michelin stars.

The regional heats for the Springboard FutureChef competition took place last month, identifying 12 of the most up-and-coming young chefs from across the UK and Ireland. The finalists will now battle it out to be crowned champion in the national final being held in London on Monday 14 March 2022.

Aiming to find the UK and Ireland’s next generation of culinary talent, Springboard’s FutureChef is a school-based programme that supports the development of life skills while inspiring young people to pursue an exciting career within the world of hospitality.

Discussing her success, Diana Marin, 15, West Midlands regional winner and one of the eight female finalists, said: “Until I joined this competition, I didn't realise that it was my passion to cook. It has opened a new path to my future and inspired me to follow a dream I never knew I had.”

Jodie Cochrane, 18-year-old winner of FutureChef 2020, also shared her experience: “After winning Springboard’s FutureChef competition, I’ve been able to pursue my dream job as a professional chef.

'I’m so grateful to have been given this platform to showcase my passion for hospitality, learn from experienced chefs, and develop my own skills.

'Ultimately, this experience has given me the confidence and ability to secure a fantastic apprenticeship programme at the very start of my career.”

Celebrating Springboard’s recent diversity win, leading female chefs have considered the perceived challenges faced by women running kitchens - a sector that continues to be dominated by men.

Discussing how the sector can accelerate gender-parity, Michelin star chef Clare Smyth, said, “The important thing is having visible representation. It’s not something that occurred to me when I was younger, I just wanted to work with the best chefs in the profession and there were almost no women at the top in those days — it was mainly men, so all my mentors were men.

'I try to make sure that I mentor my team. It’s important to do what we can to keep this generation in the profession so they can make it all the way to the top, as that will help change things.'

Springboard is leading the way in giving people of all gender and backgrounds the tools and mentoring needed to thrive in hospitality, with its FutureChef competition just one example of how this is being done.

Alongside this competition, the charity has also launched ‘Springboard to 2022’, which is supporting the industry’s recovery from the pandemic. They are ensuring there’s a skilled and engaged talent pipeline ready for the industry with the goal is to have 10,000 young people trained and ready for work by the end of 2022.