Achievements and exciting future highlighted by Welsh chefs president

President Arwyn Watkins, OBE, has highlighted the “significant” achievements of the Culinary Association of Wales and the exciting opportunities awaiting the country over the next three years.

Speaking at the Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC) awards dinner, hosted by The Imperial Hotel, Llandudno, he received an ovation when he announced that Wales would be hosting the Worldchefs Congress and Expo 2026.

He explained that Team Wales, comprising the CAW, International Convention Centre Wales and The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport and the Welsh Government, had beaten Rimini in Italy in a vote by Worldchefs members to host the huge culinary event.

It will be the first time that the Worldchefs Congress and Expo has been held in the UK. “This is a significant achievement for the whole of Team Wales and will create exciting opportunities for Wales and the other home nations,” said Mr Watkins.

As a result, Wales would receive automatic finalists for the Global Chefs Challenge, Global Young Chefs Challenge, Global Pastry Chef Challenge and Global Vegan Chef Challenge at Worldchefs Congress and Expo 2026.

Wales also hoped to enter senior and junior teams in the Culinary Olympics in Germany in 2024.

“We are seeking chefs who can represent Wales on the global stage, so please ensure that you are a signed up member of the Culinary Association of Wales,” he said.

He reported that the Craft Butchery Team Wales had finished sixth at the World Butchers’ Challenge in Sacramento last year and Ben Roberts had finished third in the Champion Butcher Apprentice competition. It was the first time Wales had competed in the global competition.

He went on to report that the Junior Culinary Team Wales had won silver and bronze medals at the Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg last November. Sion Hughes, head chef at The Spa at Carden Park, near Chester and Calum Smith, pastry chef at Shrewsbury School, had qualified earlier last week in Italy for the Global Chefs Challenge final in Singapore next year and Calum also won a silver medal in Global Young Chefs Challenge in Italy.

Mr Watkins went on to announce that the CAW would be organising a 30th birthday celebration at the Celtic Manor Resort in June and hoped all previous winners of the National and Junior Chef of Wales competitions would be able to attend.

He congratulated all the award winners at the WICC, which was held at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s campus in Rhos-on-Sea from February 21-23 and thanked the sponsors of the event. The winners received their awards from Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales and Colin Gray, chairman of judges.

A new award in memory of the late Terry Willcock, a long serving judge at the WICC and supporter of the CAW, went to Dan Andree, head chef at The Beach House, Oxwich, Swansea, for the best National Chef of Wales final dish.

The award for best Junior Chef of Wales final dish went to Falon Bailie, junior sous chef at Foyles of Glasbury.

The award winners included: National Chef of Wales: Matthew Smith, a chef lecturer at Cheshire College South & West, Crewe. Junior Chef of Wales, Stephanie Belcher, chef de partie from Coast Restaurant, Saundersfoot. Best commis in the National and Junior Chef of Wales, Jay Rees, Coleg Llandrillo. Best live open class, Yuliia Batrak, Coleg Llandrillo. Best restaurant class, Simona Kristof, Cheshire College South & West. Best college, Coleg Llandrillo. Best team, Black Horse, Market Bosworth.

Jane Williams from Ecolab, a sponsor, who monitored hygiene during the WICC competitions, said she loved the passion, engagement and exhilarating atmosphere of the event

“You can see the care and attention that people take to adhering to hygiene regulations,” she said before presenting the Ecolab hygiene overall award to Coleg Llandrillo.

The WICC’s main sponsor is Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Government’s department representing the food and drink industry. Other sponsors include Castell Howell, Churchill, Major International, Riso Gallo, Dick Knives, MCS Tech Products, Hybu Cig Cymru/ Meat Promotion Wales, Cambrian Training Company and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai.