Publish Date: July 11, 2018 Posted By: Rosanna Frost



The leading lights of the hospitality industry came together on Friday 14th July at the Rosewood to celebrate the winners of the Annual Awards of Excellence (AAE). The evening was hosted by Brian J. Turner CBE, President, and John Williams MBE, Chairman of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts. The candidate who scored the highest mark in each section were announced as the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Young Chef, Young Pastry Chef and Young Waiter of the year:

• Young Chef of the Year: Connor Farrer The Ritz, London
• Young Pastry Chef of the Year: Sophie Bamford 21, Newcastle
• Young Waiter of the Year: Catarina Caldeira The Vineyard at Stockcross

The Gala Dinner also celebrated a further 18 talented young chefs, pastry chefs and waiters, who successfully achieved the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts’ Annual Award of Excellence 2018 in finals held in May and June (full list in editors notes).

To achieve the award candidates had to attain a score of over 70% in the tasks set and judged by industry luminaries chaired by John Williams MBE, Executive Chef, The Ritz London, and Chairman of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts (see end for full list of judges).

John Williams, Chairman of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts said:
“I hope that through the Annual Awards of Excellence we can motivate and inspire the industry’s young chefs, pastry chefs and waiters to undertake a career of training first themselves, and then others; and to look outside the workplace to wider industry and opportunities.”

Sara Jayne Stanes OBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts said:
“The Annual Awards of Excellence remains the essence of the Academy’s education philosophy and was, in 1983 when it was launched, the first of the Academy’s many initiatives that have raised the bar and set standards for the industry over the past three decades.”

Kitchen Finalists had five hours to produce four portions of a starter, using ingredients from a mystery box, where crab was the central component and had to shine through; four portions of a classic Alain Ducasse pigeon dish; roast squab pigeon, pommes dauphine and diable sauce plated on a flat; and finally, their own modern interpretation of a gooseberry dessert from the entry task each candidate had previously prepared.

Connor Farrer Young Chef of the Year 2018 said:
“I am extremely grateful for being given the opportunity to take part in AAE 2018, it played a massive part in my life and I feel extremely proud to be awarded the winner 2018 Young Chef of the Year. The competition gave me the opportunity to test myself in every possible way and I must thank my mentor John Williams for guiding me through the stages and helping me hone my skills. All the hard work paid off the moment my name was called at Claridges! I would recommend any young professional to do the same and put everything they’ve got into it.”

Connor graduated from the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Apprenticeship Programme at Bournemouth and Poole College in 2015. This is a great success story for the work of the Royal Academy does in promoting young talent in our industry.

The pastry finalists had five and a half hours to produce 12 allumettes, 16 dipped chocolates with a raspberry ganache centre of their choice; 16 sable tartlets and 16 creative financiers, and finally a sugar stand with a flower to incorporate the theme of a summer fairground.

Sophie Bamford, Young Pastry Chef of the Year 2018 said:
“Achieving this Award was completely surreal – almost as if I was starring in a real-life film, I genuinely could not believe it. The most important thing the AAE has taught me is to trust yourself and have the confidence to try anything and everything, no matter how crazy or insane your ideas sound. However, it is just as important to accept failure, especially during practices and run-throughs, and to be physically and mentally prepared to lift yourself up after countless unsuccessful attempts. I was extremely privileged to have Helen Doyle Executive Pastry Chef provide me with the guidance, support and encouragement to challenge myself.”

Service Finalists were required to decant and describe the wine to the judging panel, as well as set up and serve a 3-course meal with wines to a table of two guest judges.

Catarina Caldeira, Young Waiter of the Year 2018 said:
“Taking part in the Annual Awards of Excellence was a fantastic experience. It gave me the opportunity to meet likeminded hospitality professionals and present my skills on a national stage. In hospitality it can be difficult to communicate your skills. Achieving the Annual Award of Excellence provides a stamp of approval for any potential future employers. I was in disbelief when I heard I had won ‘Young Waiter of the Year’. The standard of the other competitors was incredibly high and I was delighted to achieve the award, let alone win the competition. I would encourage anyone looking to further their career in hospitality to take part. It is an immensely rewarding competition.”

- ENDS -
For further information and photographs please contact Daniel Moriss-Jeffery:
Tel: 020 8673 6300 / E-mail:
Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, 53 Cavendish Road, London SW12 0BL
Follow us on Twitter @AcadCulArts & Instagram @royalacademyofculinaryarts #AAE2018

The Annual Awards of Excellence 2018 is supported by:


Full list of all AAE 2018 Winners

Gercelynn Mae Dionio; Restaurant Hywel Jones (Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa)
Connor Farrer *; The Ritz London
Faye De Souza; Restaurant Associates, Deloitte
Frederick Smith; The Pig on the Beach
Jade Stevens; Restaurant Hywel Jones (Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa)
Andrew Tranter; Trinity

Sophie Bamford*; 21, Newcastle
Nicholas Bentley; Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons
Bastien Carriou; Harrods
Nikola Krikavova; Hakkasan, Hanway Place

Dimitri Auriant; Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
Alessandro Bellu; The Ritz London
Catarina Caldeira*; The Vineyard Hotel and Spa, Stockross
Elizabeth Forkuoh; The Strathearn - The Gleneagles Hotel
Giovanna Gucciardo; Le Gavroche
Valerija Kirjackaja; The Ritz London
Ryan Kenyon; André Garrett at Cliveden House
Marion Pépin; Core by Clare Smyth
Alana Quigley; The Birnam Brasserie - The Gleneagles Hotel
Andrea Saccogna; The Woodspeen
Bethan Sampson; Pollen Street Social

*Young Chef of the Year: Connor Farrer
*Young Pastry Chef of the Year: Sophie Bamford
*Young Waiter of the Year: Catarina Caldeira

Founded in 1980, the Academy of Culinary Arts is Britain’s leading professional association of Head Chefs, Pastry Chefs, Restaurant Managers and suppliers. The ‘Royal’ title was conferred on the Academy of Culinary Arts in 2013. While concerned with raising standards and awareness of food, food provenance, cooking and service, its objectives are equally focused on the provision of career opportunities. These aims and objectives are achieved through a number of education and training initiatives, one of which is the Annual Awards of Excellence.
Patron of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts: His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

The purpose of the awards is to inspire and encourage young people to achieve the highest possible standards in their chosen profession – Kitchen, Pastry or Service – and to offer them clear guidelines for success in their career.

To participate in the AAE is a great learning experience in itself. It is not a competition as there is no first, second and third place, but instead, any number of candidates can achieve the standard of excellence set by leading figures within the Academy of Culinary Arts and the hospitality industry.

Good basic skills are the essential cement with which young, ambitious members of the catering industry can build a rewarding career, while more taxing tasks help to identify the best cooks and waiters of today who will become the leaders of tomorrow.

Honorary President of the AAE 2018: JASON ATHERTON, Chef Patron, The Social Company
Chairman of the AAE: JOHN WILLIAMS MBE, Executive Chef, The Ritz London
Joint Chairmen of Kitchen: MARTYN NAIL, Executive Chef, Claridge’s and HYWEL JONES, Head Chef, Restaurant Hywel Jones
Joint Chairmen of Pastry: YOLANDE STANLEY MCA, Trainer, The Pastry Training Company & SARAH HARTNETT, Pastry Consultant
Joint Chairmen of Service: SERGIO REBECCHI, Director, Serenata Hospitality and JOHN COUSINS, Director, The Food and Beverage Training Company

The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts is immensely grateful to the sponsors of the AAE 2018:
ACT Clean; Berkmann Wine Cellars; Evolve Hospitality Recruitment; Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers; Champagne Laurent-Perrier; Maldon Crystal Salt Company; L’Unico Caffe Musetti; Savoy Educational Trust (Scholarship); Speyside Glenlivet; Wedgwood; Woods Foodservice; The Caterer (Media Partner).

Candidates who achieved the Award of Excellence were invited to the Gala Presentation Dinner at which they were presented with a diploma recognising their achievement, a chefs jacket (for the Kitchen and Pastry) thanks to Continental Chef Supplies or lapel pin (for the Service), and a magnum of Champagne Laurent-Perrier. The candidate who scored the highest mark in each section (Kitchen/Pastry/Service) was rewarded with prizes including a travel scholarship, thanks to the Savoy Educational Trust, MAC knives thanks to Continental Chef Supplies, Meyer cookware, a specially commissioned engraved Silver Trophy and work experience at The Fat Duck thanks to Heston Blumenthal OBE.