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(From Western Morning News)
Last year, I was on the interview panel to select the first 16 candidates for the new Michael Caines Academy at Exeter College's catering department.
A panel of us, including Michael himself, heard from a succession of nervous but remarkably impressive 16-year-olds. All were mustard-keen to grab a place on a revolutionary new programme of culinary education headed up by Michael. As you may know, this feted two-star Michelin chef trained right here in the South West at Exeter College.
Back then, the teenagers looked very young in their smart clothes and new suits. But once we got them talking about cookery, the confidence and experience they had to offer was simply breathtaking.
One girl was up at 3.30am every day to work in an artisan bakery, as well as doing her AS levels. Another boy cooked for his whole rugby club every Saturday, just for fun. In the end, we were spoiled for choice.
So what a delight to join them again, nearly a year on, to see how they are getting on. And to try (with difficulty) to keep up with them as they learn the ins and outs of dessert cookery from Michael Caines' top pastry chef Sylvain Peltier.
"So tell me, Sylvain," asks one earnest young man, still only 17 years old. "How will having a chocolate mousse …