The annual Country Range Student Chef Challenge is a pivotal event in the college catering calendar – with teams from across the UK battling hard to win the coveted title. Now in its 24th year, the competition is run in association with the Craft Guild of Chefs and is judged to professional competition standards. With a much-publicised skills shortage in the industry, the Country Range brand is dedicated to providing a platform for the future of our industry to showcase their talents and be the best chefs and caterers they can be. It’s also essential to raise of the profile of the catering and hospitality sector and the amazing opportunities it can provide for a great career.
Spicing up the Challenge In the initial stages of the Challenge each team of three full-time catering students had to create an amazing three course, three cover menu around this years theme which was ‘Around the World in Three Spices’. This meant teams had to use a different fresh or ground spice in each of their courses, working together to carry out research into global cuisines and how to utilise spices to agree on a final menu and practice together so that they could create and serve that menu within just 90 minutes. After a strict paper judging, the teams competed in hotly-contested regional heats. This year 10 teams secured a place in the grand final, which was held in front of an exhibition audience at Hotelympia, the UK’s largest foodservice and hospitality event.
Rising the Challenge While the judges were incredibly impressed with the level of skills, professionalism and creativity on show from all the 10 teams, it was London’s Westminster Kingsway College and Northern Ireland’s South East Regional College that took the runner up places on the day.
1st runner up menu – Westminster Kingsway College
- Seared chilli cured mackerel tartare, pickled and charred Napa cabbage, avocado, sweet chilli soy dressing
- Pan-roasted duck breast, sweet potato puree, chargrilled French beans, buttered kale, croustillant of leg, sauce apicius, duck jus
- Rhubarb and ginger parkin tart, ginger beer ice cream, rhubarb ginger syrup, rhubarb tuile
2nd runner up menu – South East Regional College
- Scallops, cauliflower, cumib, sea herbs, ras el hanout
- Rump of venison, guanciale, spiced red cabbage, beetroot, vitelotte potatoes
- Chai infused chocolate mousse and ganache, blood orange sorbet, buttermilk, honeycomb
In addition to competing for the Country Range Student Chef Challenge title, the 10 teams were marked as part of Hotelympia’s Salon Culinaire by international judging standards with Gold, Silver, Bronze and Merit certificates being handed out accordingly. With the standard incredibly high in the live final, the full list of teams and awards are below: The 10 teams were marked as part of Hotelympia’s Salon Culinaire by international judging standards
• City of Glasgow College – Silver – Best in Class Country Range Student Chef Challenge Champions 2018
• Westminster Kingsway College – Silver Country Range Student Chef Challenge Second Place 2018
• South Eastern Regional College – Silver Country Range Student Chef Challenge Third Place 2018
• University of Derby – Bronze
• Highbury College – Bronze
• Loughborough College – Bronze
• Newbury College – Bronze
• North East Scotland College – Bronze
• East Kent College – Merit
• Ayrshire College – Merit
The Results! Winning the Country Range Student Chef Challenge is something the college will always treasure, according to the team’s proud chef lecturer. The talented trio from City of Glasgow College – Lee Christie, Jordan McKenzie and Erin Sweeney – scooped the coveted title after impressing the judges with their well-executed menu.
City of Glasgow College lecturer Robbie Phillips said: “We’re lucky to have such fantastic facilities and passionate people at the college so it was about time we won our first title and it’s something that we will all treasure. Erin, Jordan and Lee have been a joy to work with and the sky really is the limit for them if they continue in this vein.”
He continued: “The Country Range Student Chef Challenge is as tough as it gets when it comes to competition cooking. It challenges students’ knowledge, technique, attitude and desire so just to get in the final is a huge achievement. To go on and perform like they did today with big smiles on their faces throughout makes all the practice worthwhile.”
Team member Lee Christie admitted the experience has been challenging but rewarding. “The final was really tough and intense but looking back I really enjoyed it. The pressure just makes you want to do even better. The best thing about the Country Range Student Chef Challenge is that it’s great for our CV and can help push our career forward to places like London and abroad.”
Team mate Jordan McKenzie added: “It’s a great experience to be a part of and allows you to showcase your skills and look at other people around the UK and see what they are creating.”
Emma Holden, organiser of the Country Range Student Chef Challenge, said: “Congratulations to the City of Glasgow team after a tremendous effort on the day. The Country Range Student Chef Challenge has become such a sought after accolade for young college chefs in the UK and Ireland. Throughout the competition we have seen some immensely talented and hungry young chefs so it’s an honour to run the challenge in conjunction with the Craft Guild of Chefs to ensure we give them the opportunity and platform to improve and succeed in the industry.”
City of Glasgow College’s winning menu
- Smoked and spiced Roe deer, beetroot, radish, grape, hazelnut vinaigrette
- Seared North Sea coley, cauliflower; roast, pureed and marinated, seaweed, Vadouvan butter
- Coriander salted pine nut and meringue tart, f rozen blood orange yoghurt
Are you up for the next Challenge? We will shortly be launching the 2018/19 Country Range Student Chef Challenge and colleges are invited to register their interest online at www.countryrangestudentchef.co.uk.