Rotary Young Chef Competition 2023: Canterbury heat

We had a wonderful time this morning at the local heat of the Rotary Young Chef Competition 2023/2024, hosted at Archbishop's School in Canterbury.

This was the second heat to be held in Canterbury, although the national competition has been running for several years. As before, it was organised jointly by our fellow Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Canterbury Sunrise, and us. The event proved to be fun and inspirational.

Youngsters from schools in-and-around Canterbury had been invited to take part in the Canterbury heat. Altogether there were six youngsters that took part, representing Barton Court School (Willow, Mia), Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School in Faversham (Cissy, Darcy and Anjola), and Archbishop's School (Tye).*

It was a pleasure to have Joey Wicks (a professional chef from Canterbury's Prince of Wales Youth Club who has worked as a chef in London) as one of our judges; he was joined by Alison Forrest (a former home economics and child psychology teacher who has taught for over 30 years in various schools, including Lavender Hill School in London. Coincidentally, Alison used to be an Archbishop's student). 

The competition took place in the school's Food Technology department, with the support from the School's Assistant Headteacher Mrs Tilstone and assistance of Food Technology teacher Mrs Jackman. Parents, other supporters and teachers also came along to the event. 

After a welcome by lead organiser Rob Ward, and a brief introduction to the judges, the competition kicked off at 10am. The youngsters had the challenge of preparing and cooking a two-course meal within a budget of £18 in 2 hours.**

Not surprisingly, the youngsters were a little nervous at the outset, but they soon settled into cooking mode and were seen calmly chopping, beating and baking while the two judges went around observing them at their work and asking them questions about the items they were cooking.

Menu items were as follows:

  • Willow: Sri Lankan dhal with rice and egg/pecan maple apples
  • Mia: Honey & orange lamb cutlets with brown sugar glazed carrots and cheesy potato/Swiss roll
  • Cissy: Butternut squash curry/apple rose tartlets with freshly made ice-cream
  • Darcy: A platter of sushi/fresh mango sorbet served with passion fruit sauce
  • Anjola: Bacon, spinach & tomato pasta/raspberry meringue tart
  • Tye: Chicken Kiev/raspberry & pomegranate cheesecake

The judges asked the young chefs about their selection of dishes, ingredients and the techniques being used; they also kept an eye on how the youngsters used knives and other equipment, and maintained hygiene & cleanliness.

After the two hours of cooking was over the youngsters delivered their dishes to the judges one-by-one for assessment. As well as tasting the dish the judges looked out for plate presentation and noted responses to questions; they were also able to give some feedback on how the youngsters might improve their dishes. Leftovers were sent through to the adjacent room so that parents/supporters could also have a taste of the final dishes 

The judges then departed to discuss the entries while the youngsters tidied up. Finally, after what seemed quite a nerve-racking time, the judges came back to announce the winner. "I know you're biting your nails," said Alison, who explained they would like to make some quick individual comments before announcing the Canterbury heat winner. 

Tye's pudding was described as "fantastic" and "to die for"; Anjola's freshly-made pasta was described as "beautifully presented" and better than the judges could make; Darcy was praised for her technical skills and told she had made something so "beautiful and simple" to look at but "difficult to make"; Cissy's apple rose tartlets were described as "a work of art" while Mia (who had to contend with oven failure) was credited for her positive attitude and told her flavours were "spot on". Finally, Willow, by far the youngest in the competition, was praised for her great knowledge of spices - picked up from her grandmother. 

Joey thanked Rotary and Archbishop's School and passed on some advice to the students - especially to focus on knife skills and to keep experimenting with cooking. Both judges, together, then announced the winner: Darcy!

Darcy collected her certificate and special embroidered Rotary Young Chef apron from our Club's President Rosemary Doyle. "You all did really well," said Rosemary, who added for everyone "you have a great attitude and we were really impressed and enjoyed the food enormously". Certificates were also presented to all of the entrants, while Rob Ward presented the judges and teachers with a bottle of wine as a token of thanks.

Asked for her comments as the event closed, Mrs Tilstone said ""what a lovely competition, the young people did a fabulous job, it was great to see such a high standard. Thank you to Rotary for providing such an amazing opportunity".

Our congratulations to all that took part - especially to winner Darcy. We wish her well in representing Canterbury in the District Finals.  

Picture: A collage of the various dishes together with pictures of the participants and judges. Picture credit: Rotary Clubs of Canterbury. Further pictures are available in our Facebook album.

*Another youngster was selected but was unable to attend the heat. Surnames omitted for privacy purposes.

**Recognising that these costs may be prohibitive for some youngsters, the Rotary Club of Canterbury and Sunrise provided the costs of ingredients for the heat.

 

Saturday 16th December 2023

Published by: The Rotary Club of Canterbury

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