Rising to the Student Chef Challenge!

The Country Range Student Chef Challenge is a major event on the competition calendar for catering colleges across the UK. It is run in association with the Craft Guild of Chefs and judged to professional competition standards. Eight teams secured a place in the 2017 final after an initial strict paper judging followed by four highly competitive regional heats. The final battleground for the eight talented trios was the Live Theatre at ScotHot in Glasgow in front of a packed audience.

The finalists were:

  • Hopwood Hall College: Lucinda Lageard, Marcus Carter-Strutt, Kyle Rosebury and the lecturer Sam Everett
  • Blackpool and the Fylde College: Lecturer Steven Alexander, Stewart Frame, Emily Wilkinson and Holly Evans
  • City College Norwich: Lecturer Bob Oberhoffer, Meg Greenacre, Stacey Jolly and Chloe Saterlay
  • Ayrshire College: Iona Duncan, Agnieska Dudko, Katarazyna Hospodarewska and lecturer Annmarie Farr
  • Glasgow Clyde College: Lecturer Steven Sanderson, Erin Sweeney, John Punsalang, Natalia Siwek and lecturer Joe Rainey
  • City of Liverpool College: Lecturer Ian Jaundoo, Kerry Kewley, Ben Hughes and Edwin Kuk
  • Henley College Coventry: Lecturer James Brooke, Kallum Hart, Hollie Tipper and Toby Sheffield
  • Loughborough College: Emily Bucknall, Sian Dixon, Aveir Gordon and lecturer Darren Creed

The Brief The teams had to create and plate a three-course meal in just 90 minutes within the theme of “Healthy Gourmet Fine Dining” and costing no more than £8 per cover. This included a vegetarian starter containing at least one super grain, a main course that could contain meat or fish but had to be centred around imaginative healthy cooking techniques, and a dessert that should contain fruit where possible and refrain from containing too much butter and cream. Unlike many other competitions, the college teams were required to develop the menus themselves, rather than replicate a specific menu, which allowed them to let their creative juices flow. As a result, there was a wide variety of adaptations of the brief, which ultimately made for a more interesting final.

The Standard The top three teams were all awarded gold medals from ScotHot in addition to their Student Chef Challenge awards – and the remaining five finalists won silver awards, which is testament to the high level of skill on show.

Emma Holden, Country Range Student Chef Challenge manager, said: “It’s been an incredible challenge with the bar being raised higher and higher each year. From today’s evidence the UK’s professional kitchens are in safe hands as the skills, flavours, combinations and creativity displayed were amazing. All the teams who competed received Gold or Silver Awards from ScotHot too which just shows the high standard on show by the student chefs. We thank all the teams who took part in this year’s challenge but a huge congratulations goes to the all-female team of Iona, Agnieska and Katarazyna who thoroughly deserve to be named winners of this year’s Country Range Student Chef Challenge.”

The Winners The all-female team from Ayrshire College was victorious after wowing the judges with their teamwork, cooking skills, creativity and plate perfect dishes. In addition to taking home the prestigious Country Range Student Chef Challenge title, Iona Duncan, Agnieska Dudko and Katarazyna Hospodarewska have also won the once in a lifetime opportunity to work with the Craft Guild of Chef’s Culinary Team in catering for over a thousand guests at the Craft Guild of Chefs Annual Awards 2017.

Craft Guild of Chefs’ head judge Chris Basten said: “Massive congratulations to Ayrshire College who are definitely deserved winners this year. As we expected from the final there was a fantastic array of skills on show, from sous vide cooking to more traditional and classic cooking methods. Cooking a three-course meal in 1½ hours is tough at the best of times but the team showed bags of innovation in their menus and definitely hit the brief with what they served. Each and every team can hold their heads up high at a fantastic job done, as the judging was to strict competition standard so a very well done Ayrshire College who are definitely three young chefs to watch closely in the future.”

Ayrshire College’s winning menu:

• Mushroom Consommé with Chai Seed Dumpling, Broccoli, Pickled Mushrooms and Textures of Onion
• Guinea Fowl, Crispy Black Pudding, Fennel, Carrot and Orange Puree and Potato Boulangere, Port Jus.
• Pistachio, Lime and Coconut Cake with Coconut Sorbet, Passion Fruit Jelly and Compressed Mango

Agnieska Dudko, winning team member from Ayrshire College, said: “It’s just absolutely amazing and we’re all still speechless. Even just to get to the final was a big achievement but to win it is out of this world and I’m just so happy. The whole challenge was incredibly rewarding, terrifying at times but we couldn’t have done it without our lecturer Annmarie who believed in us and pushed us to be the best we can. We practised hard, worked together, were clean and tidy and cared about everything we did and the hard work definitely paid off in the end. I can’t wait to go to London and cook with the Culinary team now!”

Annmarie Farr, Ayrshire College Lecturer, said: “I’m the proudest lecturer around and delighted my team have won the crown. People have travelled from all around the UK so you realise how big and important the competition is to student chefs, the lecturers and colleges. I’ve entered and put students through similar competitions in the past but this is definitely by far the highlight because to get this stage and to have done so well is absolutely amazing for the girls.”

Are you up for the next Challenge? The Country Range Student Chef Challenge is a prestigious culinary competition which has become a firm fixture in the catering industry’s calendar. The Challenge targets teams of three full-time student chefs studying hospitality or catering college courses across the UK and requires the preparation, cooking and presentation of a three cover, three course menu. We will shortly be launching the 2017/18 Challenge and you can register your interest online at www.countryrangestudentchef.co.uk.

Click here to read the rest of the May 2017 issue of Stir it up