With spring on the horizon, the competition season is about to begin and the eagerly awaited finale of the Country Range Student Chef Challenge will soon be here. Taking place on the 26th March in the Live theatre at the Hospitality, Restaurant and Catering Show at London’s ExCel, the final will see teams battle it out for eternal glory plus a major boost to their career prospects.

Following the initial round of paper judging in January headed by Chris Basten, Vice President of the Craft Guild of Chefs, the judges have deliberated and decided on the worthy teams of culinary students, who will now compete for the Country Range Student Chef Challenge crown.

The full line up of colleges for this year’s final include:

  • Cornwall College
  • Loughborough College
  • New College Durham
  • Stoke College
  • Westminster Kingsway College
  • West Suffolk College

“It’s fantastic to make the final once again and the team are all very excited. We’ve had some great practice sessions so while I’m sure there will be some nerves on the day, I have every confidence in the team.”

Darren Creed, Culinary Lecturer at Loughborough College

“It’s the first time we have made it to the final of a prestigious competition like the Country Range Student Chef Challenge so it’s going to be a brilliant experience for the students and the support team. The menu really highlights some special local producers and ingredients, so we just want to make them and our local area proud.”

Lynn Mitchinson, Lecturer at New College Durham

This year’s challenge has an added twist!

On the day of the grand final, the teams will have to recreate their menus in front of the Craft Guild of Chef judges and a live audience. Four covers of each course will need to be prepared, cooked and resented to a high standard within only 90 minutes. The food culture and traditions of a local area are heavily influenced and entwined by its history, landscape, people and weather so the focus for this year’s competition is “Love Local” and challenges teams to showcase the best of their local area to the below criteria:

STARTER – Vegetarian – can contain dairy and eggs.
MAIN – Seabass, one whole (suggested weight 1.2kg) can bring gutted but must be filleted as part of the competition. Served with a mollusc or bi-valve garnish, a starch, and seasonal vegetables.
DESSERT – Chocolate – at least 50% of white or dark chocolate must be used or a combination of both.

To celebrate the rebranding of Country Range, each team’s menu needs to include five Country Range kitchen staples.

Not just an optional extra, college cookery competitions play a vital role in developing student chefs and preparing them for roles in professional kitchens. Given the labour shortages in the industry, competitions are key to attracting new talent while ensuring they can grow and succeed.