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Welsh hospitality duo are world champions

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Two young hospitality professionals representing Wales in the prestigious global final of the World Young Chef Young Waiter (YCYW) competition have become world champions, after gaining national titles a fortnight earlier.

The competition, which was brought to Wales and hosted by University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) for the first time ever this year, began with national finals in Swansea which whittled down contestants to a final duo to go forward and represent Wales on the global stage.

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The world final took place at The Maybourne Riviera Hotel in Monaco, where 14 young contestants battled in MasterChef-style, with nationalities competing as a pair – chef and waiter – to serve a menu that represented their country.

Wales scooped the top spot, with chef contestant Ali Halbert, 26, of Heaneys in Cardiff, and waiter Tilly Morris, 21, of Grove of Narberth being crowned world champions.

Their task was to prepare and serve a three-course lunch to VIP guests, and they were assessed by an expert judging panel of 9 world-leading hospitality experts including high-profile UK chefs Adam Handling, Jason Atherton and Mark Sargeant who observed every step of the process. 

Tilly serving the VIPs as part of the competition (Image: World Young Chef Young Waiter)

A glamorous awards dinner was held in the evening, attended by HRH Prince Albert of Monaco, where the results were announced. Ali’s winning menu was called “A Taste of Wales” and incorporated Welsh ingredients such as laverbread and local clams, with dish names such as “Sugarloaf Mountain” connecting the best of the nation’s flavours with its unique landscapes.

Tilly’s winning cocktail, “I See the Sea”, adopted a similar style. Using local samphire, vermouth made from ingredients foraged in Pembrokeshire and jalapenos grown in the garden of her workplace, she won an additional Creative Cocktail Award sponsored by NEFT vodka and a $1000 prize split between herself and Ali.

Tilly making her award winning cocktail (Image: World Young Chef Young Waiter) 
Tilly’s award winning cocktail “I see the sea” (Image: World Young Chef Young Waiter)

Championing the country’s distinctive heritage, language and culture through its activities, UWTSD works hard to ensure that Wales is connected to the wider world by providing elevated opportunities for its people. The University was delighted to provide the platform for Ali and Tilly to compete in the world final after it hosted the first ever Young Chef Young Waiter Wales competition at the beginning of November.

Dr Jayne Griffith-Parry, Chair of Judges for YCYW Wales and Programme Manager for Gastronomy and Hotel Management courses at UWTSD says: “It’s been fantastic to witness and be part of Tilly and Ali’s success here in Monaco after our Wales finals in Swansea a few weeks ago.

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“They bring incredible passion, skill and flare – proving that the Welsh Hospitality industry is going from strength to strength. The University works hard to provide opportunities for young people to shine and gain practical experience and skills, and seeing these two collecting their awards just goes to show that what we do is working. I wish them all the best for the future.”

Ali and the chef finalists at the competition (Image: World Young Chef Young Waiter)
Tilly and the waiter finalists (Image: World Young Chef Young Waiter)

Sean Valentine, Managing Director of World Young Chef Young Waiter says: “It’s been a great few days and a lot of fun here in Monaco. We have worked so hard over the last four years to modernise this historic concept and expand it from a UK competition to a global one. The first ever World Final in Monaco has brought together the best young professionals in the hospitality industry to showcase their amazing talents. We look forward to expanding the competition to additional countries for 2023 with the support of our incredible judges, partners and sponsors.”

Chef-judge Mark Sargeant says: “Being involved in judging World Young Chef Young Waiter is an absolute dream. I was lucky enough to win the competition in 1996 when I was working at Coast Restaurant with Steven Terry. Gordon [Ramsey] was a judge, and after that he offered me a job at Aubergine.

“I guess you could say that the rest is history, because winning that competition was without a doubt the biggest doorway opened for my career. I am so proud to be able to come back and pass on my experience to the new World YCYW as I feel it’s my job to push the careers of the future talent out there.”

Young Chef Young Waiter of the Year, in association with UKHospitality and the Restaurant Association, has been honouring the best young chefs and waiters since 1979. Now in its 45th year, it continues to highlight the remarkable skills of the finest young professionals in the industry. Relaunched as World Young Chef Young Waiter in 2022 to extend the competition around the globe, this year was the first time Wales could enter as an individual Nation.

The competition promotes hospitality as a career of choice, a profession and a vocation, and is open to young chefs and waiters living and working in Wales who are under the age of 26.

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More information on how to apply next year can be found on the University’s website.

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