Oaklands College opened the doors of its college restaurant this weekend for a batch of young hopefuls to battle it out in its annual Young Chef of the Year competition.
Thirteen aspiring chefs from schools across Hertfordshire and beyond prepared their choice of sweet or savoury dish in a timed task for a team of expert judges.
This year’s judging panel included Lussmanns Group Head Chef Nick McGeown, Martin West, Head Chef at The Stables Restaurant at Oaklands College and local food writer from the Herts Advertiser, Becky Alexander.
After submitting entries supported by a full methodology, the shortlisted candidates were invited for the two-hour cook-off to prepare their dishes. Judges evaluated each on presentation, taste, execution and innovativeness.
Students were praised for their effort by St Albans City and District Mayor Cllr Mohammad Iqbal Zia, who presented winners and runners up with their prizes following the judge’s final decision.
Taking the overall Young Chef of the Year title was 15 year-old Amanda Garcia-Ghuran from St Albans High School for Girls who impressed judges with Plated Fruit Salad with clotted cream rolled in toasted coconut and meringue.
Speaking after the competition she said: “I am overwhelmed with today’s result, I really wasn’t expecting it. I really enjoy cooking and am studying GCSE Food Technology – I am looking at my options to develop this into a future career. To have my dish praised by the judges feels great – it’s lovely to have people enjoy the food you create.”
Runners up were awarded in Savoury and Sweet categories, with Romila Khan of St Albans Girls School and Cairo Henderson-Bradshaw from Central Foundation Boys School, near Old Street in London for their respective dishes of Butter Chicken, white cumin rice and naan bread and Deconstructed Cheesecake.
A select number of Level 1 Hospitality & Catering students from Oaklands also took part in their own college category in the competition – for many a great first taste of a kitchen competition environment. Taking the Oaklands crown was Jamie Teakle, who delivered a Chicken Mango Salsa with plain rice.
Cllr Mohammad Iqbal Zia, Mayor of St Albans City and District, said: “I was amazed by the standard of cooking demonstrated by these wonderful young chefs. I was particularly impressed with the brilliant dish created by Amanda, the overall winner of Young Chef of the Year. I also want to congratulate Oaklands’ Hospitality & Catering students for putting their skills to the test for the first time in a kitchen competition environment.”
Head Chef at The Stables Martin West said; “The quality of this year’s entries was an incredible standard – food that any professional chef would be proud to serve. This year’s entrants raised the bar in presentation, innovation and fantastic flavour. All of the finalists should be very proud of their achievement.”
Winner Amanda will have her name engraved on the competition trophy and receive a £50 Lussmanns voucher. She will soon up her kitchen experience further with a day’s work experience at The Stables Restaurant and a shift of work experience at one of Lussmanns Hertfordshire restaurants.
Group Head Chef Nick McGeown said: “The competition was once again a thoroughly enjoyable day with many aspiring young cooks. I am, very happy that we at Lussmanns can continue to support this budding talent - some of which will become quality chefs of the future.”