The heat is on for a Westminster Kingsway College student as he prepares to represent England in this year’s International Young Chef Olympiad.
Joe Slater, 18, will be among the student and apprentice chefs from around the world competing in the culinary battle across six continents and 24 time zones from 31 January to 6 February.
The competition, founded by Indian entrepreneur Dr Surborno Bose and now in its eighth year, will be held online for a second year due to the COVID pandemic.
Each participant will undertake a 30-minute skills test and then compete in a first round to make four portions of a vegetarian pasta dish and crème caramel.
The 10 best chefs will then go through to the next round where they will be asked to create a chicken dish with ingredients from a mystery basket.
They will have two and a half hours to complete each round and will be judged by an independent professional chef.
Each entrant is allowed a mentor to help prepare them for the competition.
Joe, who is the third year of a Professional Chef diploma, said: “It’s my first competition and I’m really excited. It’s good experience and I’m ready for it.
“I heard about it a few weeks before Christmas. I found out the briefs and got on with preparing for it. It’s been going well. I’ve been practising the dish and we’ve put it on the college restaurant menu.”
Joe lives in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, and works as a part-time chef at The Chequers Inn in the nearby village of Weston Turville at weekends.
He said: “I’ve learnt a lot at college over the past three years that is going to help, especially working in both the college restaurants. I know at colleges local to me there’s a lot more theory. It’s a lot more hands on here and you get the best experience. The facilities are very good and the lecturers have a lot knowledge to transfer to you.”
Joe studied food technology at GCSE and decided he wanted to become a chef after hearing about WestKing when he was 15.
He said: “I cooked a lot more in that year and felt this is what I want to do. I came to the college and my passion for it has just got bigger. I like creating my own dishes and enjoy the buzz of the kitchen when it’s busy. It can be challenging, but I like the excitement of it.”
Westminster Kingsway College has two public restaurants – The Brasserie and The Escoffier Room – where students like Joe hone their skills and prepare for jobs in the hospitality industry by creating and serving dishes for the paying public.
With other colleges closing their public restaurants over the last few years, WestKing’s students appreciate the opportunity to work in a real restaurant kitchen, which makes them more employable when they leave the college.
WestKing Chef Lecturer Chris Basten, a former chair of the Craft Guild of Chefs, chose Joe to be WestKing’s entrant and is his mentor.
Chris guided former WestKing student Beth Collings, who now works at The Salt Room in Brighton, to win bronze in the competition in 2020.
Chris said: “I’ve been helping and supporting Joe as much as I can, not that he needs much tuition. It’s just about fine tuning what he does in the kitchen.
“He produces consistently good food, has a good manner and calm temperament when he’s cooking and doesn’t flap when he’s under pressure.
“Everybody has a good chance of winning and it can come down to how well you perform on the day. Joe has a good a chance as any.”
WestKing’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses and apprenticeships offer students unrivalled opportunities to learn from our experienced team of Chef Lecturers in our industry standard professional kitchens.
The college also has excellent relationships with some of the country’s top chefs – some of whom are former WestKing students themselves, giving students the chance to gain work placements and helping them find great jobs when they leave the college.