Meet our six Salon Culinaire apprentices!


We’re delighted to announce that six of our incredibly talented apprentices will be battling out at the prestigious International Salon Culinaire Competition 2024.

They are the amazing Mohamed Elhrabi from Compass, Lewis Weygang from Shepherd Neame, Faye Szpytma from Sodexo, Owen Childs from Hotel Folk, Patrycja Dankowska from BaxterStorey and Charlotte Rollason from Shepherd Neame.

The six culinary apprentices were selected by HIT’s esteemed Chef Academy and have been practising hard for the highly anticipated competition at the Hotel, Restaurant & Catering event on Tuesday, March 26th.  

Our apprentices will be taking part and competing in the thrilling ‘The Apprentice Challenge’, the first stage of which is prepping a protein, either meat or fish. 

They’ll then head to the heart-pounding 45-minute ‘Live Theatre Cook-off’ where they’ll be presented with a mystery box of ingredients to craft a main course that will dazzle judges.

Marks from both stages of the competition will be used to award winners, with judges giving points for hygiene, technical skills, correct uniform, flavour and composition, and presentation. The announcement of winners later will only add to the thrill!

We wish you all six apprentices the best of luck and can’t wait to reveal the competition highlights. In the meantime, here’s introducing our fab six:

Owen Childs

Owen is a Commis Chef with Thorpeness Golf Club and Hotel, Hotel Folk. He says: “I was working at Thorpeness as a kitchen assistant when the opportunity for the chef development programme that had recently launched at Hotel Folk was given to me. I joined the programme in September 2023. I have always loved cooking and baking at home and was keen to develop these skills further. My Dad is my inspiration, he was a chef for many years, and I used to spend time cooking with him.

“The Salon Culinaire competition means a lot to me, and I am proud to have been invited and chosen to take part. It provides me with the opportunity to continue learning, and it’s not often that you get the opportunity to work with a mystery box of ingredients.”

Owen recently won “Dedicated to the Details” award at a recent award evening which is one of Hotel Folk’s values.

Mohamed Elhrabi

Mohamed is a Commis Chef with Compass Group. He says: “My inspiration for cooking comes from my mum who was a great cook. Since losing her in 2018, I’ve always tried to create her dishes which is something that reminds me of her and the time we used to spend together. Then, after getting married and having a family, I continued to love cooking and my family loved it too. My oldest son Keon was the first person to suggest I become a chef and I took his advice and here I am living the dream.

“To be a part of the Salon Culinaire competition means such a lot to me. It’s a really big step to show off my skills in a competitive kitchen but I’m excited to take on the challenge!”

Lewis Weygang

Lewis works for Shepherd Neame at the Horse and Groom, Dartford, as a Junior Sous Chef.

He recently completed his Level 2 Commis Chef apprenticeship with straight distinctions and has moved straight onto his Level 3 Chef de Partie qualification. He was also runner-up in the HIT Fired Up chef competition last year, wowing judges with his wild mushroom arancini which he produced at HIT’s Academy Showcase Lunch event attended by an array of hospitality leaders.

He says: “This is my first time taking part in Salon Culinaire and I’m really looking forward to taking on the challenge.”

Faye Szpytma

Faye works for Sodexo at Merville Barracks in Colchester. She is doing a Commis Chef apprenticeship. 

She says: “Ever since my school days, I have had a strong passion for cooking, spending countless hours developing my skills in the kitchen at school and at home. So, when the opportunity for an apprenticeship with Sodexo came up, it felt like the natural next step for me to develop my knowledge and skills in something I truly love to do.

“Competing in Salon Culinaire is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me as a young apprentice. It is a chance to step out of my comfort zone, showcase my skills and experience something not a lot of people get to do. Being selected has really helped my confidence and made me believe in myself more.”

Patrycja Dankowska

Patrycja works for BaxterStorey Amazon as a Chef de Partie in the hospitality team.

She says: “I started my apprenticeship because of my desire to do something new. I really want to develop myself, and I think any form of training can help me succeed and be a good chef. I would like my parents to be proud of me for being as good at cooking as they were when they ran their restaurant. They are the biggest inspiration for me. 

“I hope the Salon Culinaire competition will give me the opportunity to prove myself, to meet new people and have a good time that I will remember for years to come.”

Charlotte Rollason

Charlotte is a Commis Chef apprentice with Shepherd Neame at The Minnis Bay Bar and Brasserie, Birchington.

She says: “I decided to take up an apprenticeship to develop my skills and follow my ambitions to become a successful chef in a developing industry. Working in hospitality as front of house, I witnessed chefs cooking and saw the effect of their innovation on customers. This sparked my interest in a culinary career and have since loved getting to explore the industry from a different perspective.

“Being part of Salon Culinaire is a new experience that I wouldn’t get to participate in normally and is a great insight into other opportunities.”

Wishing you luck

“We’d like to say how proud we are of all six apprentices who all demonstrate an incredibly high standard of culinary skills,” says Mark Belford, HIT Chef Academy Vice Principal. “We know all six will face the Salon Culinaire challenge with confidence and a smile and we can’t wait to support them on their journey.”

We’ll keep you posted on how they get on!


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