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Winners of hit TV baking show share their expertise with college learners

(L-R) Michael Coggan, Gethin Thomas (learner) and Andrew Minto

Two professional pastry chefs who were crowned the winners of a hit TV baking show, have returned to their former college to share their culinary expertise.

Michael Coggan and Andrew Minto, who both worked as pastry chefs for Cardiff Bay’s Gin and Bake, beat some of the country’s top professionals in the industry to win Channel 4’s Bake Off: The Professionals.

After being announced the best patisserie team in the country, both chefs have chosen to come back to the college where they started their impressive careers to pass on their skills and knowledge to budding chefs at Coleg y Cymoedd.

The duo joined actor and singer, Wynne Evans, for the official launch of the college’s new Colliery 19 restaurant and training facility in Rhondda, with Mr Evans marking the grand opening with a ribbon cutting service alongside staff, learners and members of the wider community.

Wynne Evans at the ribbon cutting ceremony for Colliery 19 joined by Coleg y Cymoedd Deputy Principal Jonathan Morgan and learners

As part of the celebration, Michael and Andrew taught learners from the Level 3 Patisserie and Confectionary course all about creating Bake Off winning worthy desserts. The chefs taught techniques on how to create showstopping desserts and centrepieces, from tempering chocolate to creating decorative garnishes.

With Coleg y Cymoedd’s new Colliery 19 restaurant now open to the general public every Monday evening and Thursday lunchtime, guests can sample these creations as part of the menu freshly cooked and served by the college’s hospitality and catering learners.

Michael said: “Coming back to my old college and the local community I grew up in after being crowned the best patisserie team in the country is an amazing feeling.

“We want nothing more than to pass on the skills and knowledge we’ve gained to young aspiring chefs and patisserie makers at the place where we started our own culinary journey.”

After completing their qualification in Professional Cookery at Coleg y Cymoedd, Michael and Andrew went on to work in a string of five-star establishments, including Gleneagles in Scotland and St David’s Hotel in Cardiff, before joining Gin and Bake. Michael and Andrew now work as Head Pastry Chefs in Pettigrew Bakery and Gin and Bake respectively.

Andrew added: “We hope that our masterclass encourages learners at the college to feel motivated and inspired to keep on pursuing their own ambitions in the field.

“We’d like to return to the campus again in the future and continue to share our skills and expertise with the future generation of pastry chefs and professional bakers in South Wales.”

As the hospitality industry is currently facing challenges in recruitment and demand for skilled staff, the masterclass with the two chefs, alongside the opening of the new Colliery 19 restaurant and commercial culinary training facility, forms part of the college’s dedication to provide its learners with hands on skills and experience to prepare them for a career in industry.

In a nod to the region’s mining history, the restaurant at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Rhondda campus features coal mine inspired décor with a modern twist. All food will be prepared and served by learners studying all levels of catering courses, from introductory to advanced qualifications, under the guidance of professional chefs and front of house staff.

Gethin Thomas, Patisserie and Confectionary learner at the college, said: “I really appreciate being given the opportunity to take part in a masterclass from professionals in the field, especially from successful chefs who also made their start at the college.

“The skills and knowledge they’ve taught us as well as the hands on work experience from the Colliery 19 restaurant and training facility will be invaluable when I begin my own career in the industry.”

Tracey Evans,  Head of School of Hair, Beauty, Hospitality and Catering at the college said: “Having Andrew and Michael come back to the college to teach industry-level patisserie skills is an incredible experience for our learners.

“We hope that these masterclass sessions will further help learners to feel ready to take on a role in the industry and excel in their careers.”