15th February 2016

The apprentices who embarked on RBH' year-long Chef Academy last March have successfully graduated the programme - one month early.

The budding chefs marked the end of a successful 11 months' work with a fourth and final two-day intensive masterclass at The Langstone in Portsmouth, with two of the apprentices gaining extra recognition.

Jamie Blunden (26), who has undertaken his apprenticeship at The Langstone, picked up his second masterclass Star Apprentice title after showing off his vastly improved skill across high-pressure cook-off and palate test challenges set by The Langstone's own Head Chef, James Parsons.

However, the big winner at the end of the two days was Alexandra Cristina Moraru who picked up the overall Chef Academy Star Apprentice award - bagging a week's work experience in South Africa this spring.

The 24-year-old, who has been honing her skills at Crowne Plaza London - Docklands, has consistently impressed Chef Academy mentors, collecting two masterclass Star Apprentice accolades over the course of the programme.

Alexandra, who joined Chef Academy after completing a six-week traineeship at Crowne Plaza London - Docklands, said: "I'm absolutely over the moon to have been chosen as the overall Star Apprentice winner. My fellow apprentices have all been great over the last 11 months, meaning I was up against some stiff competition.

"Having the chance to gain experience from some of the best chefs in the industry in South Africa is a dream come true.

"The Chef Academy has taught me so much and has given me a great stepping stone from which to further my career. I'd encourage anyone who has the opportunity to take part in the future to give it a go."

Each of the graduates has earned a Level 2 Qualification in Professional Cookery, as well as guaranteed employment at Commis Chef level at one of RBH' properties for one year.

The Chef Academy programme, which was designed by RBH - the UK's largest independent hotel management company - and Lifetime Training to give those with little or no experience the opportunity to forge a career in hospitality, will continue with another intake later this year.

Niki Fincham, group learning and development manager at RBH, said: "Our group of graduates may be small, but they are immensely talented. They have learned, grown and developed over the course of the programme, which was exactly our aim for this first Chef Academy, so I would definitely say it's been a success.

"Each of the four will move onto a Commis Chef role at the RBH property of their choice and I'm sure we'll see them flourish even more. Alexandra, in particular, is one to watch which is why she picked up the coveted overall Star Apprentice title. She took some risks during the last masterclass, but she showed some wonderful skill and it really paid off.

"I'm very proud of each of the apprentices and looking forward to introducing our next intake of Chef Academy students to the programme."

Sam Bransby, aged 21, and Daniel Leandro, aged 29, have also graduated from Chef Academy. Sam has been based at Bedford Swan, whilst Daniel has been training at Crowne Plaza Manchester Airport. Both will continue at their respective hotels as they move into the role of Commis Chef.