Twenty-one-year-old Holly Woodman from the Claire Clark Academy has been crowned Young Pastry Chef of the Year.
In the annual competition run by Master Chefs of Great Britain, Woodman competed with seven entrants from across the UK.
To enter, applicants were required to submit dish names, recipes, methods, trimmings and costings for a hot soufflé with accompaniments, a plated restaurant dish and a variety of shortbread.
Finalists prepared and presented their offerings in three hours at the Claire Clarke Academy, after which their menus were judged by a panel of notable pastry chefs.
Woodman’s winning set included: chocolate and pistachio soufflé with chocolate sauce and crumb, followed by a tropical fruit dessert with white chocolate collars, mango mousse and coconut sorbet, plus a selection of whole shortbread and orange shortbread petit fours.
News of the victory was “completely unexpected”, as Woodman had only been learning professionally for six months, although she has previously completed work experience with pastry catering business Pretty Sweet.
“Being up against chefs who have done competitions before and work in kitchens, compared to me who works in a shop and trains two days a week, it still feels like a dream,” she said.
“I went into the competition focused and gave everything I could.”
Prizes for her victory included: trips to two events organised by the Master Chefs of Great Britain, a visit to the Koppert Cress herb nursery in Holland, a roll of chef’s knives, £250 in cash and work experience with famous pastry chef Laurent Duchêne at his patisserie in Paris.
“Holly held her own amongst some professional pastry chefs with far more experience than her,” commented Andrea Ruff, Woodman’s mentor and course team leader.
“She completed on time, her working methods and hygiene throughout the three-hour competition were second to none, she was so focused.”
Run by Bake Off Crème de la Crème judge Claire Clark, the academy offers a range of patisserie courses and runs a state-of-the-art pastry kitchen.
Woodman is currently studying the Level 2 Bakery & Patisserie full-time course – which is located at Milton Keynes college – and will be starting her Level 3 patisserie course later in the year.
She plans to hone her skills in a hotel patisserie while studying for her next qualification.