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Three apprentice chefs from Westminster Kingsway College (@Westking) rubbed shoulders with royalty after being invited to the 40th anniversary of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts (RACA).

Gerry Sands, Simon Trodd and Sean Reeves met HRH Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at the celebratory event at the Michelin star Trinity restaurant in Clapham.

Charles and Camilla spoke to all three aspiring chefs and Sharon Barry, Head of School for Hospitality Apprenticeships at the college, during their royal visit on 27 May.

Gerry, 18, from Barnet, who is taking a Commis Chef apprenticeship, said:

“I felt very honoured to meet the Prince of Wales and Camilla. They asked me about where I was working and wished me the very best for the future. It was a real highlight of my career so far.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my apprenticeship. I’ve been entering competitions written my own cookbook for family and friends on lockdown. I’ve learnt a huge amount and had a lot of support to practice and get my skills up at college and in work.”

Simon, 24, and Sean, 21, were among seven chefs offered an RACA apprenticeship through the Prince’s Trust to celebrate Prince Charles’s 70th birthday in 2018. They have been undertaking a Culinary Skills course while their apprenticeship was put on hold in lockdown.

Simon, who lives in Lewisham, said:

“Meeting Charles and Camilla was a quite a surprise. It’s not something that happens to you every day. Camilla asked about starting my apprenticeship and what I’d been making so far. It was great to talk to them and it would be amazing to cook for them one day.”

Sean, from Islington, added:

“It was very exciting to meet the royals. They were very much engaged about what had been happening in the industry and what the future might be. It’s been quite intense doing the course as it’s only one day a week and there’s a lot to do, but it’s fun and good to be learning at that level.”

The celebratory event brought together RACA members and leading chefs as the hospitality industry begins to reopen as the country moves out of the pandemic.

Attendees also included Brian Turner CBE, President of the RACA; Raymond Blanc OBE, Chef Patron of La Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, and many other leading figures from across the culinary and hospitality industry.

The Prince of Wales has been patron of the RACA since 1999 and is a keen advocate of its work to promote and recognise culinary and hospitality excellence, and to support young talent though apprenticeships and training.

John Williams MBE, Chairman of the RACA and Executive Chef of The Ritz, said many of the attendees at the event highlighted the “incredible breadth of talent” in the industry, and gave particular praise to its future stars on RACA apprenticeships.

Sharon Barry, Head of School for Hospitality Apprenticeships at WestKing, said:

“It was a such a privilege to attend the RACA’s anniversary celebrations. It was fantastic occasion for the apprentices, and they represented the college wonderfully.”

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