19th October 2017

Kent Young Chef AwardThe first stage of the Kent Young Chef Award judging took place on Wednesday 18th October, when the panel of judges assembled at The West House Restaurant in Biddenden, to decide the eight finalists. The competition, organised by Produced in Kent, is open to young people aged 11 to 16. This year, following feedback from competitors, judges and organisers sees the competition introduce a dessert course.

Stephanie Durling, organiser, Produced in Kent explained, “Winners of this competition automatically go through to the Regional Finals of Springboard’s Futurechef. Last year, three Kent Young Chef Finalists took part in the Regional heats where they had to produce both a main course and dessert. They felt it would be good to cook two dishes, instead of one, at the Kent Young Chef final. After consulting with our experienced panel of judges, they agreed that the standard of entries over the past few years warranted adding a second dish to the menu for the live final”.

All the 2017 entrants applied through their schools and had to write and submit an original, innovative main dish and dessert recipe. Organisers Produced in Kent received 50 entries from 14 different Kent Secondary Schools.

A shortlist of ten Senior and six Junior entries were selected to be judged by a panel led by Head Chef and owner of the West House, Graham Garrett, who has been part of the judging panel for the past two years. The group of judges met at his Michelin starred restaurant in Biddenden. Graham was joined by Tony Blake, Commercial Manager from kff and new judge Patrick Hill, Executive Chef from Thackarays, Tunbridge Wells. The final judge, Ewan Simpson, Head Chef from The Northall restaurant at the five-red-AA-star, Corinthia Hotel London, could not join them due to work commitments. Ewan communicated his choice of finalists remotely, but was in agreement with the other three judges.

The Produced in Kent team read all 50 applications, and carefully noted the ingredients, recipes, method and timings. The main competition criteria is for the young cooks to use local, seasonal produce, so any entries that did not identify these elements were not considered.

Graham Garrett, Chief Judge, said, “This year we had less entries submitted to us from Produced in Kent for the paper judging. This meant we were able to really scrutinise each entry forms and discuss the recipes in depth. The quality of the method, the list of ingredients and the complexity of the dishes were all considered. The finalists were difficult to pick but in the end we have eight very accomplished menus which feature some complex cooking techniques. All the judges are eager to taste the food at the Live Final in November”.

After reading through the Junior entries, Tony Blake from kff noted that the young chefs aged between 11 and 13 had given all four judges a difficult job. He said, “The level of expertise in many of the entries was impressive. The ingredients included; duck, lamb and venison for the main dish with lots of autumn berries for the desserts. This is exactly what we wanted to see on the menu. Kent has some really wonderful ingredients and seeing them included was very heartening”.

The finalists for the Junior title, include Leah Matthews 13, from New Line Learning Academy in Maidstone, who will be making dishes named ‘Loose Duck Race’ and ‘Caught up in the Brambles’. Her main course, seared, spiced duck breast with Kentish lavender and honey, will be served on a bed of pickled shitake mushrooms, wilted spinach with an accompaniment of bacon wrapped potato roses. Her dessert will be a caramelised baked Cox apple slice with roasted Kentish Cobnut crumble.

Also chosen as a finalist is Alice Bruford, aged 13, from Maidstone Grammar School for Girls. Alice will be making a Venison burger with a homemade bun, served with a fresh salad. Her dessert will be a seasonal pumpkin pie with a stem ginger cream. The third finalist competing in the Juniors is Joseph Creasy aged 11, from Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys. He will be cooking an autumn pork casserole with herby dumplings for his main dish and an autumn fruits crumble with vanilla and nutmeg custard for his dessert.

The final Junior entrant is Rohan Selva-Radov, aged 12, from St Olave’s Grammar School, who impressed the judges with his fusion menu of Kent Masala and a Cardamom Apple Cake.

Graham Garrett said “All the judges were intrigued by Rohan’s menu and his desire to bring two very different cooking techniques together. On his application he referenced his Indian roots and how he believes that a shared food heritage can bring people together. We are really looking forward to tasting his food”.

The four finalists in the senior category are also all from different schools across the county, three of which are new to the competition, with one finalist Kieran Jones, from Homewood School Tenterden, returning having won the competition last year. He also went on to win a regional Futurechef competition and then proceeded to take third place in the National Final.

His menu this year highlights his passion and understanding of food, with pan roasted loin of venison, pomme puree, cavelo nero and bordelaise sauce. This year he will be making an apple and blackberry soufflé with a salted cobnut brittle for his dessert.

Another finalist will be Millie Morris, a first timer at the Kent Young Chef Competition. She is 14 years old and attends Invicta Grammar School in Maidstone. She will also be cooking venison for her main dish, accompanied by sweet and sour parsnips and curly kale. Her dessert is one of the country’s favourites; sticky toffee apple pudding.

Niamh McCauley, who goes to St Gregory’s in Tunbridge Wells, is also new to the competition, and will be cooking Kentish pheasant ravioli with a wild mushroom sauce. Her dessert of Kentish apple and cobnut frangipane tart highlights the wonderful local seasonal produce available in November. Niamh is passionate about cooking and using good quality ingredients that are locally sourced. She said, “I love developing new recipes and creating dishes ever since my Mum bought my first cookbook when I was five”.

The final cook in the Senior category is Olivia Lowe, from Maidstone Girls Grammar School. She is the only finalist who will be cooking fish for her main course. She will be serving walnut crusted cod with a parsnip sauce. Olivia’s dessert is Forager’s Tarts, made using Kentish cobnuts for the pastry and autumn fruits for the filling.

All the judges are looking forward to tasting the final eight dishes on Wednesday 22nd November at East Kent College, Broadstairs Campus, Broadstairs, when the best chef from the Junior and Senior age groups will be awarded the prestigious Kent Young Chef 2017 title.

New judge, Patrick Hill, said “As this is my first time involved in the competition I was unsure of the standard to expect. However, the entries and menu’s exceeded my expectations. If the young chefs manage to plate their dishes under competition conditions, then we will have a very difficult job judging such well thought out and balanced dishes”. Competition sponsors; HiT Training, kff, CCS and Aford Awards will be at the Cook Off to support the young chefs, with special thanks going to CCS for providing all the finalists with Chefs Jackets and a range of prizes.

Stephanie Durling said, “We wondered if we would see a drop in the standard after introducing a second dessert course. However, we should not have worried as all our finalists menus are complex and technically challenging. I am also delighted that they have really thought about the brief. We are very grateful to East Kent College for hosting the competition, and look forward to meeting their students and staff who are going to be supporting our young cooks during the ‘Live Cook off’”.

The winner of the Junior and Senior titles will be announced following the ‘Live Cook Off’ on 22nd November.

Produced in Kent is a membership organisation dedicated to championing local food, drink, products and services in Kent. It provides vital business support, advice and sales opportunities to a diverse range of businesses that are the economic heart of Kent’s rural communities. It is a not for profit organisation working in partnership with Kent County Council and Hadlow College supporting the Kent Economy.

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