Lois Farmer from Leytonstone, East London claims the winner's title of the 2018 Julia Child Scholarship by Le Cordon Bleu after the 6 June finals.
Lois' positive attitude towards cooking is what captivated the judges. She currently works as a police detective and has worked in a variety of careers, including as a coastguard, but her long-term goal has always been to open her own restaurant and cooking school to help young people with ADHD.
The 2018 Julia Child Scholarship by Le Cordon Bleu has been launched to give career changers an opportunity to pursue their passion in the culinary arts. This is timely as a recent survey found that 52% of British residents dream of changing their hobby into a career.
Candidates from all over the UK applied, but only 42 candidates made it through to the semi-finals held at Le Cordon Bleu London on the 17 and 18 May 2018. After a strenuous process the panellists carefully selected just sixteen finalists who battled it out on the 6 June to complete the final task.
The finals took place in one of Le Cordon Bleu's the state-of-the-art kitchens where chef Eric Bediat, Head of Cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu London hosted a demonstration and explained step-by-step the key techniques needed to create savoury Bouchée. The sixteen finalists then recreated the dish based on the techniques they learned earlier, and were given the chance to showcase their creativity by choosing which ingredients to use and how to present the dish on the plate.
Chef Eric, who was also one of the judges explains: "This year's Julia Child Scholarship has been an exciting journey as we have come across many talented candidates. It was especially difficult to choose from all the passionate finalists. We did not judge solely on the culinary skills but rather we based our judgement on the candidate's attitude, participation, creativity and aptitude to take feedback from Le Cordon Bleu Chefs."
Lois' outstanding prize, worth over £45,000, includes a place on the renowned school's most prestigious qualification, the Grand Diplôme® which is a nine-month programme providing training in both pâtisserie and cuisine, a three-month internship at Mere Restaurant under the guidance of Founder Monica Galetti, and luxury accommodation in central London, courtesy of the Londonist DMC, all of which begin in September.
She will also receive one-to-one mentorship with four of Le Cordon Bleu London's acclaimed alumni, including private chef Luciana Berry who was one of the quarter finalists of MasterChef The Professionals; Adam Ashe, the executive chef at Renaissance St Pancras; Hideko Kawa the former pastry chef at The Fat Duck and owner of the Sweet Art Lab; and Eran Tibi, co-founder and chef of Bala Baya.
In the presence of many admired chefs and industry professionals at the award ceremony, winner Lois described how she felt, saying: "to win the Julia Child Scholarship by Le Cordon Bleu is a dream come true. The whole process has been a great experience and I never expected to win. It still hasn't sunk in. To also be mentored by Adam Ashe, Eran Tibi, Hideko Kawa, Luciana Berry and train under Monica Galetti is going to be an amazing experience!"
Monica Galetti, founder of Mere Restaurant also spoke about Lois' achievement: "I am just honoured to be a part of this with Lois as I believe training as a chef to be truly important. She has chosen to pursue an optimistic art and is brave to accept this wonderful challenge, to invent happiness every day."
Galetti goes on to share a touching poem of what it means to be a chef: "To be a chef means to be a person of taste, culture and to know how to realise the mysterious alchemy of the different flavours. To be a chef means to be a person of heart with elegance and modesty and to be able to offer happiness to people you don't even know."