Keiron Murphy won the UK Scholarship Award 2016, which gained him a coveted place on the Diplôme de Pâtisserie with Culinary Management, luxury accommodation with Urbanest and an internship under the guidance of three Michelin-starred chef Clare Smyth MBE, at Restaurant Gordon Ramsey.
Ahead of the return of the UK Scholarship Award in January 2017, Le Cordon Bleu London decided to catch up with Keiron to talk about Christmas, the competition and how he his finding the course so far.
What did you do for Christmas last year before the launch of the competition in 2016?
Last year I spent Christmas with my partner’s family in the Lake District which was perfect for the festive period as it’s really picturesque. I then returned to Leeds to see my own family, but this was unfortunately cut short as I had to make a wedding cake for a client. Christmas is really important to me as spending time with family and friends is something that I really look forward to. It’s just the time of year to be merry and consume lots of food and alcohol, and who wouldn't like that!
What inspired you to enter the competition?
I was running my own cake business, Keiron George Cake Design and I really wanted to progress by training professionally and equipping myself with the skills that I needed to be successful. My dream is to own my own pâtisserie, creating exciting, delicious and innovative confectionary, and I knew that training here would give me a solid foundation for this.
Before entering the competition I had already trained in cake decorating but all of my pâtisserie skills were self-taught. The first time I spoke with Le Cordon Bleu London, I actually enquired about employment and offered to teach, or assist on the cake decorating course in exchange for pâtisserie training, but obviously that didn’t happen! I heard about the UK Scholarship Award as a result of this enquiry and thought it would be the best chance that I had to train at the world-renowned school.
What was going through your mind during the different stages?
I put a lot of time and effort into the application process and spent hours working on the essay, the application video and making elaborately decorated Bakewell tarts to upload via Instagram. I was quietly confident that I would get through to the interview stage, but after looking at the other entrees images, this all changed and I became less convinced.
At the semi-finals when I visited The Yorke Arms in North Yorkshire I didn’t think I had done enough to see the finals and I was upset all week thinking I’d let myself down. Finding out that I actually did get through was absolutely unbelievable. During the finals I was just trying to keep calm and try my best not to feel intimidated by everyone else.
How did it feel to be announced the winner of the award?
I couldn’t quite believe it, there was actually an awkward moment when the winner was announced and because they only said my first name I hesitated. I thought I could have misheard as my heart was beating so fast and so loud, and there was a chance that Chef Julie could have said someone completely different. I kind of took a step forward, and then was unsure if it was me so I stepped back again! When I realised that it was actually me I was totally elated, I wanted to start right then and there.
How has your time been at Le Cordon Bleu London so far?
It has been incredible to be able to study somewhere I’ve wanted to study for years. It is really a dream come true, and I feel so lucky. I have built great relationships with other students and the Teaching Chefs, and getting to meet and interact with new people from across the world is fantastic. I also love living in London. I love the culture, the diversity, the history, and let's not forget the places to eat. I can count on one hand the amount of times I've cooked since living here because I’m always eating out!
How are you finding the Diplôme de Pâtisserie?
I'm genuinely loving every minute of it! The whole reason that I applied was to learn new skills, so to be learning the correct terms and techniques, the history behind what I'm making and the science behind it too is amazing. Gaining the knowledge is incredible and especially when this knowledge is coming from the most recognised culinary institute in the world.
What is the most valuable thing that you have learned during your UK Scholarship Award journey?
I would say believing in myself. I never really thought that I would get to the finals, let alone win the whole competition so I'm incredibly proud of myself to be sitting here right now!
I have also learned the importance of organisation. I was quite an untidy chef at home and had never even heard of ‘mise-en-place’ but having to work in such a confined area of the kitchen, and also knowing that the chefs are constantly observing makes you more aware and as a result much tidier and more efficient.
What are your plans for Christmas this year?
This year I’m going back to Leeds to spend Christmas with my family. I'm looking forward to enjoying time with them as I haven’t seen them since moving down to London.
I have a large family so there are always children running around which makes it a lovely, busy environment. Whilst growing up Christmas was always spent at my aunt’s house where all thirty or so of us would get together, eat and play games which was always so much fun. Now everyone is getting older, and our families are expanding so it's hard to carry on these traditions, but we do still try to recreate it for my nieces and nephews.
In my eyes you can’t have Christmas lunch without a turkey, along with all the trimmings of course! I usually cook the food and take great enjoyment in planning and executing it on the day. I like to mix it up each year with different things, but there will always be homemade stuffing, cranberry sauce and goose fat roast potatoes. I also make an elaborately decorated fruitcake and mince pies along with the usual festive treats.
What advice would you give to those entering the UK Scholarship Award in January 2017?
All I would say is just to be yourself. As long as you show your passion for this industry you really can't do anything else. Try not to doubt yourself or feel intimidated by the other candidates. Don't beat yourself up if you're not successful this time, just enjoy the whole experience and keep pushing on.
If you could do it all over again what would you have done differently?
I would probably try not to stress myself out as much at the different stages of the competition, but if I actually went back I wouldn’t know that I was going to win so I probably would have done exactly the same thing over again!
Do you have any New Year Resolutions?
My New Year’s resolution for 2017 is to take French lessons as it's something that I've wanted to do for years, and now, being submerged into a French culinary school, this is the ideal time. I would love to take a year out and work in Paris one day, so learning the language would be very beneficial.
Do you have any interesting Christmas stories to share?
I doubt it’s that interesting but I usually make my own Christmas presents for my family. I have nine nieces and nephews, with two more on the way and I always make them gingerbread houses. I make baked goods for other family members as well, such as fruit cakes and biscuits, and different types of preserves like jams and chutneys. I also like to make homemade Irish cream which is so much nicer than shop bought, and a few years ago I made my mum a patchwork quilt covered with family photos.
For more information about the UK Scholarship Award 2017 please visit the website.