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Evening Meeting With Amanda Mckean, Director Canterbury Festival

30th April 2024
Venue: Cricket Ground

Evening meeting with Amanda McKean, Director, Canterbury Festival.
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Lunchtime Meeting Agm & May Business Meeting

7th May 2024
Venue: Cricket Ground
Lunchtime meeting 12.30pm for 1pm meal Annual General Meeting to be followed by the May Business Meeting.
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Our first ever Young Chef competition!

It was both delightful and inspiring to co-host our first ever Young Chef competition together with The Rotary Club of Canterbury Sunrise on Saturday morning. The level of skill and talent on display was very high.

Youngsters from schools in-and-around Canterbury were selected to take part in the Canterbury heat of Rotary’s Young Chef competition – including Leah, Jack, Lucy, and Tye.*

The competition was open to youngsters aged 11-17 years; although this is the first heat to take part in Canterbury, the national competition has been run now for a number of years and “gives entrants the chance to put their culinary skills to the test and be judged at the final by leading industry professionals”. 

The Canterbury heat was held at Archbishop’s School; the competitors were from Dover Grammar School for Girls, Archbishop’s School and Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Faversham. The judges were Joey Wickes (a professional chef from Canterbury’s Prince of Wales youth club), Alicia Craig (a former food technology teacher), and Tim Clark (a retired Canterbury Christ Church University lecturer and “an enthusiastic cook and eater of food”!)

The competition took place in the school’s Food Technology department, with competitors allowed time to set up and familiarise themselves with the equipment before the clock started. Food Technology teachers Sam Jackman and Michelle Brown did a stellar job of helping with the set up and providing support to the youngsters during the morning. The task kicked off at 10am, with the youngsters given two hours to prepare and present their three-course meal. 

The students were accompanied to the event by parents and other supporters. The event was also attended by members of both Clubs – Sinitta Nightingale (President of Canterbury Sunrise) and Rob Ward from the Sunrise Club (Main organiser) who welcomed the competitors and their family members, and Tony Loughran (our President) and Mary McGeary (Chair of the Vocational Committee in our Club).

The atmosphere was tense at first, but before long the youngsters settled into the swing of things and the sound of chopping and mixing could be heard; delicious fragrances and sizzling dishes suggested that the judges (and the parents/other supporters waiting next door) would be in for a real treat. 

A variety of dishes were on offer. Starters included prawn cocktail, stuffed mushrooms, crab & ricotta ravioli and tempura vegetables; mains were just as diverse – southern fried chicken with joloff rice, chick pea and sweet potato curry, sushi, and herb-crusted baked cod with Moroccan spiced carrots and couscous. Desserts included a meringue roulade, iced choux buns served with fresh raspberries, and baked apple with a honey cream.

The judges went around the room observing how the youngsters prepared and cooked their dishes, stopping to ask questions about the selection of dishes, source of ingredients, techniques being used and meal planning. The judges also observed how the youngsters used knives and other equipment, maintained hygiene and kept their workstations neat. Parents and supporters were able to come in and out of the room to watch the youngsters at work; one supporter was Brooke Porter from Dover Grammar School for Girls. As a Maths teacher and STEM coordinator as well as form tutor, she saw a different side of the youngsters from her school than she normally sees – “It’s such a pleasure to watch the students do something so different – and for them to build their confidence,” she said.

At the end of two hours the youngsters delivered their dishes to the judges who took time to assess each dish according to a number of pre-set criteria including: whether the dish was served on time and at the correct temperature; taste and presentation of each dish; and choice of dishes. The contestants were then called up one-by-one to receive technical feedback and some suggestions on how they could improve their dishes. The judges then grouped together to make their decisions. 

A sample of each dish was sent to the families/teachers waiting in the adjacent room while the judges deliberated; each youngster presented their dishes and briefly described how they’d prepared them, and was subsequently given a warm round of applause.

After a tense time waiting for the judges, everyone was invited into the main room to hear the results. Joey. acting as the Chair of judges, announced the 2nd place winner (Leah) and then (to a silent drum roll!) announced the overall winner of the heat (Lucy). 

Leah received a £10 voucher from Lakeland. Winner Lucy received a £25 voucher, a specially embroidered Rotary Young Chef apron and a framed certificate. Lucy will now go forward to the District heats.

The contestants received a certificate of participation while Joey praised them for their efforts and asked all of them to keep cooking: “Keep experimenting and keep trying different things,” he encouraged, reminding the youngsters how they are fortunate these days to have access to so many cultures and cuisines from which they can learn and be inspired. “In my grandfather’s day they didn’t even have spaghetti bolognaise,” he added. Joey also emphasised the importance of appropriate equipment and having good knife skills.

Asked how she felt on winning the competition, a rather self-effacing Lucy said: “I didn’t really expect to win – everyone was so good!” Her father (accompanied by her younger brother) proved as delighted with her win. “Lucy gets her cooking skills from her mother not me!” he said. Sadly, Lucy’s mum died in 2019 – when she was just 10. “Lockdown in 2020 gave us the opportunity to sort through the many cookbooks my wife had and pick out and try new recipes,” he said, adding “Lucy’s interest in cooking has grown from there and her mum would be so proud if she could see her now. I am extremely proud of how well she has coped over such a difficult 3 1/2 years and of how far she has come.”

Assistant head of Archbishop’s, Susan Tilstone, stated “this competition was an amazing opportunity for all the students involved and it was so good for them to get feedback from a professional chef”. 

The competition was drawn to a close by Sinitta and Tony who thanked all of the youngsters that took part – and their parents too. A big thanks went to Archbishop’s school for acting as host, and Rob was delighted to present Michelle and Susan with a bottle of wine each for their time and effort.

Everyone had such a good time. We really do hope that we are able to hold the competition again next year. 

Picture: Winner of the Canterbury heat, Lucy Chambers from Queen Elizabeth’s School, Faversham, pictured with Presidents Sinitta Nightingale and Tony Loughran. Picture credit: Rotary Clubs of Canterbury and Canterbury Sunrise. Further pictures are also available in our Facebook album.

*Two youngsters selected to take part were unable to attend the heat. Some names omitted for privacy purposes.

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St Lawrence Cricket Ground
Old Dover Road,
Canterbury, Kent,
CT1 3NZ,
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