Ten budding young chefs from Cumbria and North Lancashire battled it out at Kendal College for the chance to be named the ‘Schools Junior Chef of the Year’.
Organized by Kendal College in association with Kendal Festival of Food and McClures, the competition aimed to encourage more young people to consider following a career in the food industry as well as showcasing their talents in the kitchen.
The ten young finalists, seven girls, and three boys, were all aged between 14-16 and represent six schools from the surrounding area of Kendal, Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancaster, Sedbergh and Ullswater. They were shortlisted by the College from 45 initial paper entries, which detailed the students’ own proposals for an original 3-course meal showcasing Cumbrian produce.
The finalists were allocated two and a half hours to prepare, cook and serve their chosen dishes for the specially selected judging panel who awarded points for cooking skills, use of local suppliers, originality, presentation, professionalism and the overall quality of the finished food.
The overall winner was Annabelle Brewer from Settlebeck School with a winning menu of tomato tarte tatin on a bed of Wensleydale cheese and rocket salad served with honey and mustard vinaigrette followed by Italian baked rabbit with green olives and lemon and finishing with Sticky toffee Roulade.
Annabelle will have the opportunity to recreate her winning menu, with support from the hospitality team at Kendal College, for up to 60 invited guests at a celebratory event at the College on Tuesday 24 February.
She also received £500 worth of McClures’ vouchers for her school, a one-day family wristband package to this year’s Kendal Festival of Food and a chance to dine at an award-winning restaurant in the Lake District.
Annabelle commented «I really enjoyed the competition but it was challenging preparing and cooking all three dishes in front of the judges in just 2 and a half hours. I made sticky toffee roulade because mum has a gluten-free diet and so it’s nice to choose desserts mum can eat.»
Judges included Steven Doherty, chef-proprietor of the First Floor Café at Lakeland in Windermere, Cumbrian foodie and established food writer, Gillian Cowburn, and Graham Gelder from McClures who has worked in the catering industry for over 20 years.
Stephen Doherty spoke after the final: «This was a wonderful and truly inspiring competition which I was delighted to be involved with, as judges we have tasted some wonderful food today».
Judges awarded Highly Commended to Rosie Toms from Kirkbie Kendal School. Best starter went to Daisy Purcell from Kirkbie Kendal School for her Cumbria Goats cheese and beetroot tart, caramelized onion, wild rocket, and pine nut salad garnish. The best main course was awarded to Jada Robinson from Queen Elizabeth School for her roasted lamb shank in red wine sauce with mashed potatoes and prize for best dessert went to Annabelle Brewer, Settlebeck School cork the sticky toffee roulade.