The UK regional final of S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy Competition 2022-23 saw the brightest young stars in the UK cooking to impress some of the best and most experienced chefs working in the country today: the local jury of Francesco Mazzei, Sally Abé, Claude Bosi, Lisa Goodwin-Allen, Skye Gyngell, and Sat Bains.
After the judging was complete and the plates had been cleared away, the young stars of tomorrow also had the chance to listen to and swap advice with the local jury, minus Gyngell, as part of the Brain Food forum curated by Fine Dining Lovers. The forum was first staged at the Grand Finale of S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy Competition 2019-21, aiming to stimulate inspiring conversations around gastronomy, with the help of the jurors and special guests.
Under the overall theme of ‘Taste and Creativity’, the chefs were asked their thoughts on a number of pressing issues facing both international and local gastronomy, as well as to dig deeper into their own creative processes. The forum was followed by a Q&A, where the audience of young chefs was able to put their questions to the jurors.
The likes of Bains and Bosi implored the new generation of chefs to truly get a handle on the sheer dedication and hard work it takes to get to the top, whilst Abé discussed her experience of working her way up in toxic, male-centric kitchens and the state of gender balance in kitchens today.
Mazzei turned the challenges of the pandemic into a positive, sharing how it had forced him to be more creative with his ingredient sourcing, leading him to discover high-quality local producers that he otherwise wouldn’t have worked with. Goodwin-Allen spoke about the need for the industry to sell itself more as a rewarding place to work to attract people back following the talent drain of recent years.
The group also discussed the results of the recent Fine Dining Lovers Better Business Survey, one finding of which is that reducing kitchen burnout is the number one priority for chefs.
During the Q&A, after questions, the jury turned to the audience for answers, asking them what they thought needed to be done to attract people back to working in the industry. Many agreed that the industry needed to work on selling itself more successfully, while others pointed out there was still a long way to go to change kitchen culture.