Last July I started to work on a very special project with Robert Walton MBE and Sean Valentine for The Nth Degree Global as together with UKHospitality, they decided to relaunch the 40 year old Young Chef Young Waiter Competition. The idea is to promote the hospitality industry as a vocation for young professionals under the age of 26. It was one of the most rewarding campaigns I have ever worked on, the competition literally changed the lives of the young contestants and I can’t wait for the next year!

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Young Chef Young Waiter – waiter winner Alessandro Calzavacca

The final was scheduled for October 2019 and we kicked off the launch in July, with four short months to pull everything together and find our finalists.

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Young Chef Young Waiter finalists

My strategy was to utilise the natural countdown of our event and look at this in stages; we had the launch, the judges revealed, the short list announced, the live finals and winners confirmed at our party at Quaglino’s presented by John Torode.

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Our Young Chef Young Waiter finalists

We were so lucky to be working with the best chefs and front of house in the industry as our judges in this event, and they ensured our relaunch was promoted far and wide. Judges included head judges Theo Randall and Simon King plus Jason Atherton, Tom Aikens, Chris and Jeff Galvin, Emily Roux, Jennifer Santner, Andy Downton and many more.

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Our chefs in the kitchen at Westminster Kingsway College

“I’m so pleased to be involved in this year’s Young Chef Young Waiter and to help promote the hospitality industry to young people. It’s fast-paced and hectic but a rewarding exciting industry to be a part of and this competition is a great way for young people to start out.”

Jason Atherton, The Social Company

Our sponsors and partners worked incredibly hard to support us and included Arla Pro, Magnum, Alpha Rewards and the Cayman Islands. We created a wonderful larder of Arla Pro products for our chefs to cook with and challenged them to create a dessert where they highlighted an Magnum ice-cream (my fave was put together by our winner Richard Henderson!)

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Young Chef Young Waiter 2019 chef winner Richard Henderson with John Torode, Theo Randall, Simon King & Robert Walton MBE

“Last year was a brilliant year for me; winning Young Chef Young Waiter really has changed my life. I nearly stopped cooking altogether in 2018 and in just over a year I’ve managed to rekindle my passion, creativity and interest, which inspires me to keep learning, it has felt amazing! This has all been possible because people believed in me when I didn’t. Hywel Jones, who mentored me from 2012, was one of the main people who inspired me to cook again, and from that belief and his encouragement I entered these competitions. Since entering them, I have started to really believe in myself again. After the competition, Tom Aikens contacted me about an opportunity to work in his brand new restaurant in Belgravia. I asked to do a 10 day stage at ‘Muse‘, which I found an incredible experience, so incredible in fact I’ve now moved to London to work full time with Tom.”

Richard Henderson, winner of Young Chef Young Waiter 2019
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Richard Henderson’s Magnum Dessert

“All of the judges were impressed with the top three as they all did so well in this competitive environment for such a young age. Our Young Chef winner, Richard Henderson, was a fantastic character and had a really calm persona in the kitchen. He cooked really well under stress and his final dishes were absolutely flawless. We are all amazed by his personality and think he is going to go a long way in the industry.”

Young Chef Young Waiter head chef judge Theo Randall
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Theo Randall and Masterchef’s John Torode

Our countdown to the shortlist created the perfect framework for our social media calendar culminating in the live finals at Westminster Kingsway College. Twitter was our most popular channel for our chef judges and our young finalists utilised Instagram to share their experience.

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A waiter test for our young finalists

“For me being the head judge for YCYW is very special, it’s a completion of my journey as I was fortunate enough to win the competition in 2000. I still remember how it felt, who I competed with and the what I learnt about myself. The new revitalised format has been more relevant, engaging, fun and educational, reflecting the modern challenges young professionals now face and showcase the breath of skill and talent they now need to excel in this industry. Our Young Waiter winner, Alessandro Calzavacca, is clearly very passionate, and also unbelievably composed. His attention to detail across all our tasks was noted by all our judges. We think he has a very bright future ahead of him in hospitality.”

Young Waiter head judge Simon King
Young Chef Young Waiter 2019

We were delighted with the support on social media with followers growing from zero to over 500 in four short months on Instagram with 93,062 impressions over the final, and Twitter growing from 600 to 780 with 183,063 impressions from July to October. I worked with social media expert Rebecca Pate on this project who I’ve know since my Time Out London days!

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The final party was a spectacular event in the glitzy Quaglino’s in Mayfair where the finalists enjoyed drinks and food prepared by our sponsors and the winners collected their awards from Masterchef’s John Torode.

Rebecca Pate & Me

I’m so proud to be part of this project and I have to say, I was completely beside myself when the BBC came along to film, bringing a whole new audience to this fantastic competition. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these talented young people and am eagerly awaiting next year!

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I wore an Isabel Marant Dress & went double Valentino on the accessories

Photos by Paul Griffiths Photography & Darren Bandoo DRGNFLY Productions

Find out more at www.youngchefyoungwaiter.com

Read more in my portfolio here.