Sophie Bamford of Newcastle restaurant 21 has been named Young Pastry Chef of the Year in the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Annual Awards of Excellence (AAE).

She scored the highest mark of the pastry finalists after they were tasked to produce 12 allumettes, 16 dipped chocolates with a raspberry ganache centre, 16 sable tartlets, and 16 creative financiers. The final task was to make a sugar stand with a flower to incorporate the theme of a summer fairground.

“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,” said Bamford.

“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.”

Bamford added that that she had been “extremely privileged” to have 21 executive pastry chef Helen Doyle provide “the guidance, support and encouragement to challenge myself”.

The AAE is an examination rather than a competition, with the highest-scoring candidates in each of the three sections – pastry, kitchen and service – singled out for a top award. In addition to Bamford taking Young Pastry Chef of the Year, Connor Farrer of The Ritz, London, was named Young Chef of the Year, and Catarina Caldeira of The Vineyard at Stockcross was named Young Waiter of the Year.

The awards were announced at a gala dinner this month at Claridge’s, London, hosted by the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts president Brian Turner CBE, and chairman John Williams MBE.

 “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,” said Williams.

The full list of AAE finalists was announced earlier this month.