A former pupil from Licensed Trade Charity run school in West Sussex (LVS Hassocks) is celebrating after winning the Sodexo Young Chef of the Year Award at the Sodexo Salon Culinaire Competition held at Ascot Racecourse on 21st October.
Liam Pope, 19, won a tense public competition, against the clock and under the pressure of a public gallery and watchful judges. He had one hour to cook a two course meal of pan fried Dover Sole followed by chocolate fondant dessert. As the judges sampled his cooking and deliberated over their decision Liam said: “I was really nervous for the first 15 minutes but then I enjoyed it – it was a great experience. I want to thank everyone at LVS Hassocks for setting me on this career path – it taught me so much and meant when I went in to a big work kitchen I wasn’t daunted as I already had good knowledge. That helped me keep calm today”.
Liam, who has a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, developed his love of cooking and gained an NVQ 1 in Catering at LVS Hassocks. He benefitted from the support given by members of the ALMR through their funding of the NVQ course at the school, and through work experience provided by Yummy Pubs at their Wiremill venue.
This latest milestone in Liam’s life is set to propel him even further into the world of cooking, with his Young Chef of the Year prize including a week working with Raymond Blanc at his Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons restaurant and hotel in Oxfordshire, a week at Le Notre training academy in Paris and cooking in the Chelsea Flower Show hospitality area with Raymond Blanc.
The head of the school, Kira Brabenec, said: “We are delighted for Liam. Importantly his progression will inspire current learners at the school, and reinforces that LVS Hassocks helps learners develop career paths and prepare for independent lives”. With just 15% of adults with autism getting a full time paid job, Liam’s success highlights what can be achieved with the right support and development.