Annual Awards of Excellence Lockdown Awards

Honorary President: JASON ATHERTON: Chairman of the AAE: JOHN WILLIAMS MBE; Joint Chairmen of Kitchen: MARTYN NAIL & HYWEL JONES; Joint Chairmen of Pastry: YOLANDE STANLEY MCA & SARAH HARTNETT; Joint Chairmen of Service: SERGIO REBECCHI & JOHN COUSINS


The leading lights of the hospitality industry came together on Wednesday 7th July on Zoom to celebrate the winners of the Annual Awards of Excellence Lockdown Awards (AAE). The ceremony was hosted by Brian J. Turner CBE, President, and John Williams MBE, Chairman of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts. Honorary AAE President Jason Atherton also celebrated the winners. The candidate whose efforts stood out most to the judges was announced as the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Annual Awards of Excellence Lockdown Awards Young Chef, Young Pastry Chef and Young Waiter of the year:



Francesca Merico* 21 Restaurant – AAE Lockdown Young Waiter of The Year

Riccardo Migliorini Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester

Sofia Petrova Restaurant Story


Hannah Catley Lockdown Loaves

Emma Lawson* Keelham Farm Shop – AAE Lockdown Young Pastry Chef of The Year

Tanuj Sharma Intercontinental London The O2


Aimee Applegate The Pig Bath

Nestor Masudi Claude Bosi at Bibendum

Scott Pepper* Boodles – AAE Lockdown Young Chef of The Year

Gerry Sands Andre Garret at The Cornithia

KITCHEN: Scott Pepper, Demi Chef de Partie, Boodles, London

Scott made a big impression on our Chef Chairmen Martyn Nail and Hywel Jones as he walked over 100 miles in 7 days to raise funds for Hospitality Action, as well as showcasing his cooking skills with his team by hosting cook along sessions with his team at Boodles.

PASTRY: Emma Lawson, Product Innovation Manager, Keelham Farm Shop, Skipton

Emma’s efforts really impressed our Pastry Chairmen Yolande Stanley and Sarah Hartnett as she baked bread for her neighbourhood, giving it away to the most vulnerable people for free.
Emma also did Facebook live videos to help local children learn how to bake and then went onto create afternoon tea pop-up days and doughnut days, because she felt that people really needed a treat. She got up at 4am, rolled, fried, filled and doorstep-dropped them, all within the social distancing guidelines.

SERVICE: Francesca Merico, Chef de Rang, 21 Restaurant, Newcastle Upon Tyne

Francesca’s entry shone through with our Service Chairmen Sergio Rebecchi and John Cousins as it showcased her passion for the industry.
On top of this she completed both her Level 1 & 2 WSET courses and worked on a cheese farm in her native Italy. With 5am starts to heard the cows and sheep and learn about the cheese making process which has aided her confidence to be able to recommend cheese pairings with wines within the restaurant environment.

The Awards Ceremony also celebrated a further 8 talented young chefs, pastry chefs and waiters, who successfully achieved the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts’ Annual Award of Excellence Lockdown Award.

The AAE is the most prestigious award available to young professionals aged 20 to 26 in the hospitality industry today, recognising and encouraging the most talented ambitious Chefs, Pastry Chefs and Waiters. Since it began in 1983 over 650 young professionals have won the Award, providing opportunities for a successful career path.

The AAE is an examination rather than a competition; all or none of the candidates can achieve the award depending on their ability to attain the standard of excellence set by the judges. All those who successfully reach this standard will win the AAE. In addition, the winning candidate who scores the highest marks in each section will be named the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts AAE Lockdown Young Chef, Young Pastry Chef and Young Waiter of the Year.

At the beginning of this year with another announcement from the Prime Minister that the nation would be put into a third lockdown the AAE Chairmen (full list in editors notes) all met to discuss potential plans for this year’s awards. Our chairmen wanted to engage our AAE candidates directly, so a task was formed to find out what was keeping them busy during Lockdown.

A simple task was set as follows; To share with us something that they feel proud of, that they have achieved during their time in lockdown since March 2020. It could be anything from additional work activities they have undertaken, voluntary work, or developing your knowledge or learning a new skill.

The judges were really impressed and touched by the candidate’s stories. Such skill, motivation and entrepreneurship; and a willingness to share with their local community is truly inspirational.

John Williams MBE, Chairman of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts said:

“One of the most satisfying things about working in the hospitality industry is to see ingenuity and innovation. We knew that our AAE candidates would embrace the challenge of Lockdown and they certainly did. We have received a range of truly inspirational stories that included self-improvement, baking for their local NHS hospital and even starting their own businesses”

Sara Jayne Stanes OBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts said:

“The Annual Awards of Excellence remains the essence of the Academy’s education philosophy and was, in 1983 when it was launched, the first of the Academy’s many initiatives that have raised the bar and set standards for the industry over the past three decades.”