Skills for Chefs celebrate 20th anniversary conference

More than 200 chefs have made the annual pilgrimage to Sheffield for the 20th Anniversary of the Skills for Chefs Conference

This year, the show launched new format. David McKown, Director of the Skills for Chefs at The University of Sheffield, said: “It was about time we made some changes and the opening event with Tom Kerridge and Cyrus Todiwala OBE, DL was very well received.”

Fresh from his success in winning the Chef Catey, sponsored by the Craft Guild of Chefs, Tom Kerridge took to the stage to participate in an interview hosted by chef and presenter Joe Hurd. The delegates gained a valuable insight into Tom’s culinary and business philosophy, the session was inspiring and highly motivational.

Following this session, the delegates were treated to a Parsi Feast created by Cyrus Todiwala OBE, in conjunction with the chefs at Inox, the flagship restaurant and events venue at The University of Sheffield. The food was exciting and full of flavour and the banter between Tom, Cyrus and all the delegates was a delight to witness.

The following morning the chefs then descended on The Sheffield College for a global breakfast, and the opportunity to network with exhibitors and sponsors. Following a short briefing, the chefs then attended a series of masterclasses and larger plenary sessions in four different kitchens.

First up in the demonstration kitchen was 2 Michelin starred chef Paul Cunningham, who travelled from Henne Kirkeby Kro in Denmark to participate in the conference. Paul shared is life story in addition to presenting a whole buttered Turbot cooked in Champagne with Henne Herbs and fresh Langoustines with Tomato Fondue and Basil Leaf.

Using Seafood Scotland produce, Paul made the dishes sing with a cooking style that emphasised the importance of less is more. Paul also shared his own personal experiences with stress and encourage all chefs who might be suffering to seek help and support.

Next up in the kitchen was celebrated pastry chef Claire Clark MBE, who presented dishes for those with special diets including dairy and gluten free desserts. Delegates were inspired to try out alternative products to produce desserts that both look and taste good. Claire also shared interesting stories on the production of mass production desserts including her daily order of 4,8000 lemon drizzle cakes for Wimbledon!

ABOVE: Cyrus Todiwala, Tom Kerridge, Paul Cunningham and Conference Director David McKown

Francesco Mazzei from Satoria & Radicci Restaurants in London delivered six outstanding Pasta Masterclasses and his passion and enthusiasm oozed from every pour throughout the day. Chefs picked up lots of tips on how to make and handle fresh pasta that was then turned into a series of authentic Italian dishes.

David McKown, continued: ‘It was a revelation to learn that true Italian Cuisine does not include any butter or cream even though these ingredients might appear on the menus of your local restaurant.” 

Rupert Rowley, Michelin Starred Chef and graduate of Sheffield College also delivered a series of Masterclasses that focused on techniques and skills using a range of MSK ingredients and equipment. Rupert prepared tastings for the delegates that included a Pimms Ice Lolly that was well received on a hot summers day.

The third masterclass delivered throughout the day was presented by Ernest Jagodinski from Poland and  Franck Pontais from Koppert Cress. Ernest presented Cod Loin with Jerre Cress & Tahoon Oil and his second dish was Lamb with Hippo Tops and Shiso Purple Cress.

The final plenary session of the conference was ‘An Audience with Gennaro Contaldo,’ hosted by Joe Hurd. Gennaro is a true Italian culinary legend and his fascinating life story was moving and entertaining. Gennaro showed great drive and passion with no sign that he is ready to hang up his apron just yet.

ABOVE: The 20th Anniversary Gala Dinner

The 20th Anniversary of Skills for Chefs concluded with a spectacular Gala Dinner held at Firth Hall at the University of Sheffield, and a team of Master Chefs of Great Britain chefs from the Sheffield College and the University worked in collaboration to present an Italian themed menu.

At the Gala Dinner, George McIvor from the Master Chefs of Great Britain presented an award for outstanding service to Mick Burke who retired from The Sheffield College last year.

Further details on the conference can be found at