Masterchef: The Professionals champion Nikita Pathakji has told how her apprenticeship at Westminster Kingsway College gave her the skills and experience for culinary success.
Nikita, 25, from Clapham, became the second former apprentice from the college to win the grand final of the BBC TV series following Alex Webb’s triumph in the competition in 2020.
She said: “This is incredible. I can’t put it into words. This surpasses every achievement of my life. I don’t know how I’m going to top this. This is it, this is the peak, I think I’ve reached it!”
Her winning menu featured a starter of seabass cured in citrus dressing with smoked aubergine and spiced red pepper purées, followed by a main of crispy chicken thighs, tortellini filled with chicken, mushrooms and coriander topped with a coconut curry sauce, and for dessert a cardamom custard tart with poached apricots and a honey tuile.
Masterchef presenter Gregg Wallace said: “Nikita opened up the larder of the world and brought us dish after stunning dish after stunning dish.”
Michelin-star chef Marcus Wareing said “She’s a chef that has grown right in front of our eyes. Her food has been sublime,” while fellow judge, chef and restauranteur Anna Haugh, added: “Nikita is on the road to creating a very unique cuisine. And that is why she’s our champion.”
Nikita, who works as a Junior Sous Chef at Michelin-star restaurant Kitchen W8 in Kensington, trained at the college’s School for Hospitality and Culinary Arts in Victoria from 2016-19.
She undertook Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships, sponsored by The Worshipful Company of Cooks, at The Lanesborough in Knightsbridge and Claude Bosi at Bibendum in Kensington.
Nikita said: “My apprenticeship at Westminster Kingsway was a fantastic way to gain important foundational knowledge and skills, which compounded with real experience working in restaurant kitchens, set me up with both the skills and qualifications I needed to work in top Michelin-starred restaurants.
“I’m so glad I started my career on this apprenticeship. The guidance and extra support that made the job a little less daunting when I first started out.”
Nikita grew up in Derby and lived in India with her family for two years from the age of nine. As a child she would prepare meals with her mum, which inspired her love of Asian cooking.
After her apprenticeship at WestKing, she travelled for nine months around South East Asia, which further deepened her passion and appreciation for the region’s flavours and culinary styles.
Sharon Barry, Head of School for Hospitality and Culinary Arts Apprenticeships, said: “Nikita was a dedicated, passionate and highly motivated learner during her time at WestKing. It comes as no surprise that she has continued to grow and thrive within her culinary career.
“Winning Masterchef: The Professionals is a fantastic achievement, and we are all incredibly proud of her. She is a huge inspiration to all our current learners who has shown anything is possible if you believe in yourself and follow your dreams.”
A chef lecturer and an apprentice from Westminster Kingsway College are celebrating after being named winners in the prestigious Craft Guild of Chef Awards 2022.
Jose Souto, who has taught at the college for 18 years, scooped the Chef Lecturer Award, while chef de partie apprentice Grace Hawksley was presented with the Apprentice Chef Award.
The Craft Guild of Chefs Awards recognise exceptional talent in the industry, from apprentice and young chefs starting out to established chefs in hospitality, pubs and restaurants.
Jose and Grace received their awards from Andrew Green, Chief Executive of the Craft Guild of Chefs, and Nick Vadis, Culinary Director of Compass Group UK respectively, at a glittering ceremony at Magazine London in Greenwich on 9 June.
Before joining WestKing, Jose had worked as a Chef de Partie at the House of Commons for more than 20 years where he began as a sous chef. During this time he also worked at The Ritz, The InterContinental, Mosimann’s and the Savoy Grill.
Grace, 19, from Haywards Heath, is undertaking her Level 3 Apprenticeship at the four-star Gravetye Manor hotel in East Grinstead having completed a Commis Chef Level 2 Apprenticeship last year.
Young chef Lorcán wins Compass Apprentice Chef of the Year
WestKing commis chef apprentice Lorcán Leavy has been named Compass Group UK’s Apprentice Chef of the Year.
Lorcán, from Tower Hamlets, was among eight apprentice chefs who took part in a competition at the contract catering company’s head office in Chertsey to win the award.
Each chef was tasked with creating two courses in two hours using a mystery box of ingredients that included chicken, mackerel and seasonal produce.
Lorcán, who is training with Restaurant Associates, said: “I’m really happy to have won, it’s been a really good learning experience and has taught me to stay calm under pressure.”
All the entrants have been invited to cook at the Apprenticeship of the Year dinner at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in July.
Congratulating Jose and Grace on behalf of the WestKing hospitality and culinary team, WestKing Assistant Principal Terry Tinton said: “Jose is an amazing educator that dedicates his work and personal time to training and supporting the next generation of chefs.
“As a senior lecturer he works tirelessly to ensure the college engages with the industry and that our curriculum offer exceeds the needs of our partners.
“Grace has always been an exceptional student and this accolade is a testament to her hard work and professionalism. The entire apprenticeship team has done a fantastic job, training, mentoring and support Grace through her studies.”
Steve Munkley, Vice President of the Craft Guild of Chefs, said: “This has been a year of exceptional challenges and I am so proud to see that we have so many worthy winners.”
Have you considered a career in the exciting hospitality industry? Chefs are in demand throughout the UK and London is a major culinary hotspot, so you too could follow Jose and Grace into the kitchen by studying at Westminster Kingsway College – one of the UK’s top culinary schools. Apply now for Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses and apprenticeships.