Kent Young Chef


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Cameron Jones from Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys, and Thomas Hunt from Judd School, Tonbridge,  have been named Senior and Junior winners of the Kent Young Chef Award 2018.  The ‘Live Cook Off’ took place at West Kent College, Tonbridge Campus on Wednesday 21st November.

The eight finalists, took part in the live final at the College’s catering facilities located on the top floor of the building.  The College, part of the Hadlow Group has made extensive and impressive changes to its facilities including their Artisan Restaurant, which hosted the families, teachers and guests whilst the young chefs were cooking.

Kent Young Chef 2018 Finalists

The eight young chefs aged between twelve  and sixteen had to prepare and cook four plates of food in two hours,  a main dish and a dessert; one of each for the judges and one to be displayed for guests.

This year the organisers, Produced in Kent were delighted to welcome six judges for the final.  Led by Chef Patron of the West House, Graham Garrett,  all six had the incredibly difficult task of selecting the winners. The judges complimented the youngsters on their choice of ingredients, which needed to be seasonal and local. Read about the judges here

Head Judge, Graham said “Four of the eight cooks chose game which is seasonal in November, and six chose desserts that included apples or pears, again which is not only seasonal but one of several products that Kent is renowned for.  This was good to see as one of the basics of creating a memorable menu is to look around and see what is in season.”

The Senior winner, Cameron, aged 14, presented a perfectly cooked roast loin of venison with butternut squash, Kentish Chanterelle mushrooms and roasted Trevisco lettuce. His dessert was a perfectly poached Kentish pear with homemade vanilla ice cream and a rich chocolate sauce.  This was Cameron’s first cookery competition, his teacher, Lisa Smith encouraged him to enter, having noticed his talent in the classroom.

Junior winner, Thomas Hunt, aged 12, served dishes that all judges felt was beyond the normal capabilities of a twelve year old. Thomas made a  Venison Wellington followed by a rhubarb creme brulee. Judge, Tony Blake from Kent based, kff, who are main sponsor for the competition said, “Thomas was able to make his own puff pastry for his main course, which in the time allotted of two hours, shows a very high level of skill.  In addition he then made a wonderful creme brulee, the fact that he is so young impressed all six judges.”

The ‘Cook Off’ started at 10.15am, when, Head of Catering and Hospitality, Sarah Hogben and former Kent Young Chef winner and catering student, Alice Browning, made sure the eight finalists had access to a team of students, who stood by to assist the youngsters during the preparation stages. Sponsors, teachers, guests and parents who attended were looked after by a number of professional front of house students led by the Colleges Restaurant Manager.

Stephanie Durling from Produced in Kent said, “All eight chefs seemed at ease in the College’s catering kitchens and whilst we give a maximum of two hours, many of the youngsters were ready to present their dishes slightly earlier.  This showed how organised and methodical they were, and considering the number of judges and media that were scrutinising their cooking, indicated a high level of professionalism throughout.  The judges had a difficult job to decide the winners, particularly in the senior category where there were a number of stand-out dishes.”

The judging panel of Graham Garrett owner of Michelin Star, The West House in Biddenden, Tony Blake, Commercial Manager – kff (Kent Frozen Foods), Patrick Hill, Head Chef at Thackerays, Tunbridge Wells, Ben Crittenden, owner of Stark in Broadstairs, Vitalijs Kaneps, Head Chef from the Ferry House Inn and Andy Barker from West Kent College, all noted how well the finalists worked in the kitchen.

Produced in Kent are grateful to venue sponsors, West Kent College for providing the facilities and also for arranging a tasty lunch prepared by their students, prior to the announcement of the two winners.

The Junior runner-up was Rebecca Louden aged 13 from Maidstone Girls Grammar School with a roasted vegetable pizza, served with sweet potato wedges and salad. Her dessert was a Kentish poached pear, cinnamon snap and chantilly cream.

Patrick Hill, Head Chef at Thackerays, said “The two Juniors produced great dishes and considering their ages, what they presented was very accomplished. The winner, Thomas’s venison Wellington was a technically difficult dish, even for a more experienced cook.”

The senior runners-up were Charlotte Fife from Invicta Grammar School, who has taken part in previous competitions.  Her dishes gave the judges a difficult decision as her pheasant dish, served with a butternut squash fondant, cabbage and bacon croquette and pickled blackberries was faultless. Her dessert of Spiced Jerusalem artichoke cake split the judges, but they all admired the work and risk she took with this innovative dessert. Hamish McLay, Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys, presented a loin of venison sourced from Chart Seal near Sevenoaks, served with smoked garlic mash and a Sloe gin and red wine sauce. His dessert was a traditional Kentish Bramley apple tart.  The second finalist from the school, Jem Major, cooked Kentish appley pork with creamy mash and green beans. His second course was a puff pastry pear tartlet. The final senior runners-ups, in the ‘Live Cook-Off’, Zavie Goutorbe and Elizabeth Glasson, aged 14 and 15 respectively were new to the competition. Zavie from The Skinners School, was the only contestant cooking fish, and prepared Sea Bass and a dessert titled ‘The Colour of Autumn’. Elizabeth, from Maidstone Grammar School for Girls made a goats cheese and leek tartlet with caramelised onion, with a pudding featuring Kentish Pears, cinnamon, citrus and ginger.

On being announced, senior winner, Cameron Jones was delighted, “I was really surprised when they announced my name, I really didn’t think I was in with a chance, at most I thought maybe I would be second”.  Thomas, Junior winner, said, “I am really delighted to have won, but actually taking part has been brilliant and now I just want to cook more”.

Tonbridge and Malling Mayor, Cllr Pam Bates, was impressed with the standard of the food that the eight young chefs cooked and following the presentation said, “I am simply amazed at the way you were all working in the kitchen, and you have all done a wonderful job, and I am extremely glad I was invited here to see how talented our next generation of chefs is”.

Before presenting the winners and runners-up with their prizes, Head Judge, Graham Garrett, gave a brief synopsis of the dishes and an overview of the highlights of the 2018 competition.  Graham said, “All the finalists should be very proud of the way they have represented themselves today.  All the Judges were impressed by how calm and organised they all were in the kitchen during their preparation.  Cooking in a new environment is a mark of a true cook.  Each year we say the standard has risen, but I really do think this year has shown some really talented young cooks.”

Cameron and Thomas were invited to receive their 2018 trophies supported by Aford Awards and professional chef equipment sponsored by CCS. All finalists were given a certificate and a professional chef’s knife supplied by sponsor CCS. The two winners  will also automatically qualify for South East Regional Final of Future Chefs which will be held in 2019.

Stephanie Durling, from Produced in Kent said, “We are delighted with the standard all our finalists showcased today.  We are also delighted to welcome two new sponsors, Hospitality Media who have kindly photographed the competition and will also be providing footage of the ‘Live Cook Off’, which we think will prove very popular.  We also welcome BB4 Hospitality who have reimbursed the finalists for the fresh produce ingredients, part of their portfolio includes the Ferry House Inn who spared their Head Chef, Vitalijs, for judging”.

Produced in Kent, is indebted to all the companies and organisations that support the initiative. They would like to thank  West Kent College for providing the venue, kff, for their continued support, Hospitality Media for providing a visual record of the day, BB4 Hospitality for helping the young chefs with ingredients, Aford Awards for the Trophies, and to CCS (Continental Chef Supplies) who provided each finalist with rather splendid chefs jacket, as well as providing exceptional quality knives for all finalists, which are used by some of the world’s best chefs.

Contact details for Press:
Gill Collins | | 01622 600276

Produced in Kent
Stephanie Durling |
Hi resolution images are available.

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