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Apprentice wins Junior Chef of the Year

Curtis Easthope

Teenage apprentice chef Curtis Easthope dazzled the judges and won a Hand Picked Hotels national Junior Chef of the Year competition – just seven months after starting work in the kitchens at New Hall Hotel, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham.

The 17 year old school leaver joined the Hand Picked Chefs’ Academy, launched earlier this year, inspired by seeing superstar chefs Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal on TV and after enjoying food technology at school.

Curtis, who lives in Chemsley Wood, Birmingham, entered into the Junior Chef of the Year category of the competition for chefs at the 17 country house hotels in the Hand Picked Hotels collection across the UK and Jersey. He progressed through the early heats to the final cook-off, where he prepared mackerel in a shallot cream sauce, crushed new potatoes with spinach and broad beans and lemon posset for dessert for the judges, including Hand Picked Hotels’ Chief Executive and Chairman Julia Hands, Operations Director Douglas Waddell and Deputy Operations Director Margaret Erstad.

He said: “I was competing against chefs with more experience than me and I was shocked to find out that I had won. The prize is dinner for two in a choice of top restaurants. The things I have enjoyed about the training is learning all the different techniques and skills of cooking, including improving my knife skills. I want to build a career as a chef and would like to run my own restaurant when I am older and be head chef there.”

The Hand Picked Chefs’ Academy offers apprentices the opportunity to work in one of the hotel kitchens to learn the craft alongside talented chefs and attend training workshops while working towards an NVQ Level 2 qualification. Hand Picked Hotels works with Babcock Training, a national provider of NVQ qualifications to deliver the apprenticeships. Four apprentice chefs are currently training with the Hand Picked Chefs’ Academy.

Julia Hands, Chief Executive and Chairman of Hand Picked Hotels, said: “Curtis produced a delicious main course and dessert within a three-hour deadline and we were most impressed with the taste, creativity and presentation. We are very proud of the Hand Picked Chefs’ Academy and look forward to Curtis and the other apprentices continuing to develop their skills with us. The hospitality industry offers some excellent career opportunities and we would be keen to hear from young people who would like to find out more about careers at Hand Picked Hotels.”

The apprentice chefs currently training with the Hand Picked Chefs’ Academy are due to graduate in October this year. Recruitment for the next intake of young chefs is now taking place.