Gala dinner celebrates Culinary Association of Wales’ 30th birthday

Speakers reflected on past achievements and looked forward to an exciting future as members and guests celebrated the 30th anniversary of the formation of Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) at a gala dinner.

“The Culinary Association of Wales has many more years of success, growth and innovation ahead,” said president, Arwyn Watkins, OBE. “We can only imagine the remarkable achievements that lie in store for this association and its talented members.

“May it continue to be a beacon of culinary excellence, a source of inspiration for aspiring chefs and a testament to the remarkable talent and passion that resides in Wales.”

Mr Watkins, group executive chairman of Cambrian Training Company, Trailhead Fine Foods, Chartists 1770 at The Trewythen and Mid Wales Fayres, told the 150 guests at the International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales) in Newport that the gala dinner was celebrating 30 years of “culinary excellence, passion and innovation”.

He paid tribute to the seven founding members, three of whom – Graham Tinsley, MBE, Peter Jackson and Andy Goode – attended the dinner, and the talented chefs, industry professionals and culinary enthusiasts who had in the past and continue to uphold its values.

“Your hard work and creativity have not only elevated the culinary landscape of Wales but have also inspired countless others to follow in your footsteps,” he said.

“Throughout our 30-year journey, CAW members have represented Wales with distinction in numerous international competitions, bringing home countless accolades and showcasing the incredible skill and artistry that lies within our culinary community.”
Mr Watkins thanked organisers, mentors, partners, sponsors and stakeholders for their support and “unwavering belief in the power of gastronomy”.

By championing local produce, celebrating the diversity of regional flavours and forging strong relationships with farmers, fishermen and food producers, the CAW had helped to create a sustainable and ethical food system to showcase the best Wales has to offer, he added.

Looking to the future, he described securing the Worldchefs Congress and Expo in 2026 at ICC Wales as a “significant achievement” by the Team Wales partners – CAW, ICC Wales, the Celtic Manor Resort and Visit Wales.

More than 1,000 chefs from around the world are expected at the event, which will raise the profile of Wales, create international networking and collaboration opportunities, enhance culinary skills by sharing knowledge and professional development and boost the Welsh economy and culinary tourism.

Mr Watkins made special reference to the valuable support received by the CAW from Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas and Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, Lesley Griffiths, who were unable to attend the dinner.

Graham Tinsley, executive head chef at Carden Park Hotel and Spa, near Chester, spoke about the history, development and achievements of the senior and junior Culinary Teams Wales since 1994, sprinkled with funny anecdotes about overseas competitions.

Wales competed as a regional team until 2002 when the CAW achieved Worldchefs membership as a nation and were then able to compete against countries. Mr Tinsley explained that many chefs from around the globe didn’t recognise the Wales flag in the early years, but he concluded: “They know who we are now!”

He referred to the recent development of the Craft Butchery Team Wales which finished sixth on its debut in the World Butchers Challenge in America last year and will compete again Paris in 2025. He also revealed that the seeds had been sown to establish a Craft Bakery Team Wales.

Colin Gray, CAW vice president and managing director of Capital Cuisine in Caerphilly, spoke about the CAW’s history, praising the founders and chefs who had represented Wales with distinction and the excellent work of Mr Watkins as president.

Chefs from all the home nations were represented at the dinner, with Lee Corke from England, Kevin MacGillivray from Scotland and Brendan O’Neil from Ireland. Other guests included Dominico Maggi from Italy and Neil Thompson, Worldchefs’ continental director for Northern Europe.

Picture caption:

President Arwyn Watkins, OBE, (centre) celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Culinary Association of Wales with guests Alan Fitzmaurice, Brendan O’Neil, Lee Corke, Neil Thompson, Worldchefs’ continental director for Northern Europe, Peter Griffiths, Matt Owens, Robin Austin and Dominico Maggi, Worldchefs honorary life member from Italy at ICC Wales.