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Wales to stage biggest ever hospitality skills event in January

Arwyn Watkins, OBE, Culinary Association of Wales president. Picture by Phil Blagg Photography.

Wales is preparing to stage the biggest hospitality skills event the country has ever seen early in the new year.

The Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC) is moving to the International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales), Newport, which will become Wales’ Hospitality Hub from January 22-24, 2024.

The WICC, which was previously held in North Wales, brings together craft chefs, craft butchers and front of house staff to compete in three days of competitions. The event will be open free of charge to the public and hospitality trade.

Organised by the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW), the 2024 WICC will also be hosting the Skills Competition Wales hospitality finals.

Entries are now being accepted for all the WICC classes. Entries close on Friday, January 12.

Another first for the WICC is a Green Chef Challenge competition, which is open to all UK based chefs. Teams comprising one senior chef and one commis chef under the age of 25 are challenged to create a three course, vegetable-based menu for six guests in three hours

The courses include a taco style starter using pointed cabbage, chickpeas and thyme, a main course using  potatoes, wild mushrooms and leek and dessert using pears, lemon verbena and white chocolate.

The WICC competitions, which are for chefs and front of house staff, include the Cygnet Gin Cocktail Mixology class and the Wales heats of the Major Chefs Challenge and the 2024 Riso Gallo Young Risotto Chef Challenge.

In addition to individual class prizes, there will be coveted awards for the college awarded the highest number of points over the three days, the best junior learner and best chef in the open live classes

Entries for the showpiece National and Junior Chef of Wales Finals have closed, after attracting record interest.

The opportunity to enter the WICC 2024 Green Chef Challenge and the Welsh Craft Butcher of the Year competitions remains open until January 12, 2024.

Skills Competition Wales aims to raise the profile of skills in Wales and is part of the Welsh Government funded Inspiring Skills Excellence Programme. Students, trainees and apprentices are given a chance to challenge, benchmark and raise their skills by taking part in competitions across a range of sectors.

Climax of the WICC is an Industry Awards Dinner on the evening of Wednesday, January 24, which will showcase the best Welsh food and drink. Tickets are now on sale for the dinner costing £1,000 for tables of 12 or £100 for individuals.

CAW president Arwyn Watkins, OBE, explained that the WICC would be the launchpad for the road to Wales hosting the Worldchefs Congress and Expo 2026 at ICC Wales. He thanked all sponsors and stakeholders who are supporting the WICC.

“The WICC will become an annual hospitality hub open to the public and hospitality trade, showcasing Welsh food, drink, hospitality and skills over three days and providing a real opportunity to have a conversation with the industry,” he said.

Mr Watkins is delighted that FE colleges, apprenticeship providers and the team delivering the Inspiring Skills Excellence Programme are all supporting the move to combine the competitions in one venue to create a unique hospitality skills showcase.

“Bringing all these competitions together in one place is fantastic news for the hospitality network in Wales,” he added. “Previously, all these competitions were held in different places across Wales and on different dates.

“Chefs, hospitality businesses, colleges and skills providers will know that these competitions will be held at the same time every year in future.”

The WICC’s headline sponsors are the Welsh Government, Hybu Cig Cymru/ Meat Promotion Wales, ICC Wales, Cambrian Training Company, Ecolab, Churchill, Roller Grill, Kentaur and MCS Technical Products.