For 23-year-old chef Emily Bucknall, testing herself in cookery competitions at college was instrumental in giving her the confidence to push herself and succeed in the hospitality industry. 

Emily was part of a trio of talented cooks from Loughborough College who steamrolled their way to glory in the Country Range Student Chef Challenge in 2016, under the tutelage of lecturer Darren Creed.

Competing against some of the top students and catering colleges with far greater resources, Emily and her Loughborough College teammates won the hard way and showed that with plenty of desire, hard graft and passion, you can achieve anything. 

Emily said:

“Anyone can study hospitality and get qualifications but nothing boosts your confidence like competing in and winning a prestigious cookery competition. It’s an unreal experience, incredibly nerve-wracking, taking you to new places and out of your comfort zone to truly test your skills and techniques. After winning at Hotelympia, I felt unbeatable and that there was nothing in hospitality that I couldn’t achieve if I put my mind to it.”

Following the win and completion of her course, Emily has gone on to be a success in hospitality with stints at Sat Bains’ Michelin-starred restaurant, the National Trust’s Calke Abbey and also time back at Loughborough College, helping other students prepare for competitions. Now Emily has recently embarked on a new role at the independent Mmacaron Patisserie in Ashby-de-la-Zouch. 

“The hospitality sector is so diverse so it’s been great working in plenty of different areas to get a taste of different businesses and cooking styles. I was always stronger with my savoury starters and main courses but have recently become obsessed with my desserts and sweets so I am loving my current role where there are just the two of us in the kitchen creating.”

“It’s been a tough last 12 months for me and many others in hospitality but it is still a fantastic sector to work in. I’m hoping to go travelling at some stage in the future so the skills, techniques and experience I have gained should be invaluable in finding jobs.”   

On the catering hopefuls heading to college this September, Emily is very clear:

“Grab the opportunities with both hands and dive straight into the competitions. It’s hard work but so much fun and you will see yourself improve as you move through the process. I was definitely a different chef after our win and it paved the way for my career in hospitality.”