Top chefs inspire students with passion for local produce

Top chefs inspire students with passion for local produce

Five of Norfolk’s top professional chefs, restaurateurs and hoteliers, along with leading suppliers of free range, organic and local produce, visited the Hotel School at City College Norwich on Wednesday 8th February to support the college heat of the “A Passion to Inspire” competition. 

The professionals who guided the students in the kitchen, before judging their dishes, were Nick Mills (Managing Director) and Chris Busby (Executive Chef) from Brasteds, Eric Snaith (Head Chef, Titchwell Manor Hotel), Philip Milner (Head Chef, Orange Tree) and Roger Hickman (Head Chef, Hickman’s Restaurant). 

Seven teams of student chefs, working in pairs, were put through their paces in an intensive morning in the college kitchens.  The teams went head to head in a ‘Master Chef’ style competition as they each prepared a two course meal in just 90 minutes.

The students were challenged to come up with their own dishes, featuring a pork, duck, chicken or fish-based main course, followed by an egg-based dessert, all under the expert eye of the professionals who were on hand to provide advice and support.

Nick Mills, Managing Director of Brasteds, said:

“There were some really complex dishes for the students to do at competition.  It was really, really, pleasant to see such great passion in the young people coming through into the industry.” 

“I think it’s really important that the students get to know and understand everything about what goes into the industry, including the front of house aspects as well as the kitchen and the supply side, right through to the end with the customer experience.”

All of the key ingredients used were locally sourced and/or organic, with the competition being made possible thanks to generous donations of produce by local and national suppliers, including Anglia Free Range Eggs, Dingley Dell Pork, Stokes Sauces, First Contact Chefs and Infusions4Chefs, who were all present as guests at the event and had the opportunity to sample the students’ dishes.

Mark Hayward, Partner, Dingley Dell Pork, said:

“I thought the students have done extraordinarily well and it’s just a privilege to see young people at this stage in their career doing such a great job, and we really look forward to hosting them on farm visits.”

Clair Bullen, Head of Sales and Marketing, Anglia Free Range Eggs, said:

“I think our producers would be amazed to see what is going on in these kitchens and how the eggs they’re producing on their farms are being used.  It can only benefit everybody to have a greater understanding of the whole process”

A Passion to Inspire works to build links between catering students and the industry, to help bring on the next generation of master chefs, linking professional chefs, suppliers and colleges all year round, as well as coming together for the competition days.  

Steve Thorpe, Head of School, Hotel, Hair & Beauty, said:  

“We’ve had students from first, second and third year programmes all joining in and getting involved and they’ve all shown some great skills.” 

“We’ve already set up placements for the students to go and work with some of the chefs over the next few weeks, and the two winning teams from today will be mentored by some of the chefs to help them develop and evolve their dishes and concepts ready for the final in April.”

Level 3 Professional Cookery student George Dack, said:

“I think it went alright and I was pleased with the dish.”  George added “It was nervous when [the professional chefs] talked to you and asked you questions, but you just go with it and think about the dish really.  They helped me with my dish.  They said because I cooked it so well not to put something on top of it, which I did, and just had it on the side of the plate.” 

All of the competitors were given detailed feedback on all aspects of their performance with a detailed debrief from the professionals at the end of the day.  The winning teams were announced as:

Connor Carway and George Dack, who prepared panfried Dingley Dell pork tenderloin, served with a roasted baby carrot puree, baby fondant potatoes and a local cider jus, followed by rhubarb and custard ile flottante; and

Tom Frost and Nathan Rackham, who cooked sous vide chicken breast infused with fragrant herbs, crispy herb beignets, brown onion puree, lightly sauced with truffle custard, followed by a mixed orange Crème caramel lightened with an orange granite heightened with a rich orange syrup.

Connor, George, Tom and Nathan (all of whom are on the Level 3 Professional Cookery Advanced Diploma course) will now progress to the regional final which will be held at Colchester Institute on 24th April. 

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