Produced in Kent, Kent Young Chef of the Year 2016, Mid Kent College, Maidstone. Picture by:

Kieran Jones

Kieran Jones, from Homewood School, Tenterden and Liam Banks from Knole Academy, Sevenoaks, have been named Senior and Junior winners of the Kent Young Chef Award 2016, after the ‘Live Cook Off’ at Mid Kent College, Maidstone.

The eight finalists: four Junior and four Senior, took part in the live final on Wednesday 16th November. The competition took place in the wonderful new catering facilities in the former University for the Creative Art’s building which the College recently refurbished.

The four Kent based Judges, led by celebrity Chef Richard Phillips had the arduous task of selecting the winners in what proved to be a very close matched competition with incredibly high standards from all the finalists.

The Senior winner, Kieran, aged 14, cooked an accomplished and professionally presented plate of Herb Crusted Kentish Lamb Cutlets, Paneed Lamb BonBon with a Red Wine Jus, Fondant Potato and Carrot Puree.

Liam Banks

Liam Banks

Junior winner, Liam, aged 13, also served an incredible Kentish lamb dish; Rump of Kentish Lamb served on a bed of Pan Fried Sweet Potato, Roasted Tomato and Sweet Potato and Parsnip Crisps.

Head Judge Richard Phillips said, “All eight dishes this year were outstanding and what impressed us was the calm, methodical and organised way that all the cooks worked in the kitchen. This year the finalists really looked at how ingredients worked together and more importantly thought carefully about seasonality and using local ingredients”.

The cook-off started at 10.30am, with the Mid Kent College team standing by to assist the youngsters during the preparation stages. The college media department were able to stream the finalists preparing their dishes to the gathered sponsors, guests and parents who were waiting in the college’s restaurant and looked after by a number of wonderful front of house students.

From left: Ewan Simpson, Tony Blake, Graham Garrett and Richard Phillips

From left: Ewan Simpson, Tony Blake, Graham Garrett and Richard Phillips

Judge and Sponsor, Tony Blake, Commercial Manager, kff, said “The eight contestants were very evenly matched this year with balanced dishes that worked extremely well. The two winners were chosen because of their additional attention to detail. The plates of food were served on hot plates, which makes such a difference and every single ingredient used added something to the overall balance”.

All finalists cooked accomplished dishes and the Judges spent over 30 minutes deliberating the winners. The Judging panel of Richard Phillips whose restaurants include Thackeray’s, The Pearson’s Arms and The Windmill, Tony Blake, Commercial Manager – kff, Ewan Simpson, Head Chef, Rowhill Grange Hotel, Dartford and Graham Garrett, owner, The West House, all noted how well the finalists all worked in the kitchen.

The finalists had two hours to produce their seasonal, Kentish recipes and had to bring all the raw ingredients with them. The college provided catering students who helped with queries and equipment but were not allowed to assist with any cooking. Produced in Kent, organisers are grateful to Mid Kent College for providing the facilities and also for arranging lunch prepared by their students, prior to the announcement of the two winners.
Stephanie Durling from Produced in Kent said “We have outstanding catering colleges in Kent and each year we try and rotate the location for the Kent Young Chef Award final. This is our first time at the wonderful new facilities at the Mid Kent College, Maidstone Campus and are grateful to all the staff and students who helped create a wonderful atmosphere. We were delighted to be able to use their brand new restaurant which will be opening to the public from the 17th November ”.

Kent Young Chef 2016 152The three Junior runner-ups were Liam’s friend from Knole Academy, Tyler Smith who cooked a wonderful pumpkin ravioli with pumpkin puree and parmesan crisps, Olivia Lowe, Maidstone Girls Grammar School with a simple yet perfect trout and watercress tartlet, The final runner-up in the junior competition was Ben Masters from Skinner’s School in Tonbridge who made boar, brioche burgers with deep fried beetroot crisps and onion chutney.

Ewan Simpson, Head Chef, Rowhill Grange Hotel, said “The juniors all produced fantastic dishes and we were extremely impressed with these young cooks who made their own pasta, brioche dough and pastry from scratch. Being able to produce all the components of a dish during the competition could have put additional pressure on them but they understood timing and all the dishes were presented to the judges before the two hour deadline”.

The three Senior runners-up were Josh Adams from Hayesbrook with a duck, savoy cabbage and mashed potato dish, Charlotte Fife from Invicta Grammar School also served duck with regional plums and an apple and honey glaze accompanied by hand made bread. The final runner-up was Ben Fuller, Archbishops School, Canterbury with a stunning parma ham wrapped venison loin served with bacon and chive mash, pickled shallot, parsnip puree and blackberry jus..

On being announced, Kieran Jones senior winner was delighted, “I was really surprised when they announced my name, I have entered this competition on three previous occasions, in 2013 and 2014 as a junior and then last year as a senior. I intend to be a chef so this has taken me one step closer to my dream”.

Maidstone Mayor Cllr Derek Butler and Mayoress, Mrs Mary Butler, thoroughly enjoyed the morning and were really impressed with the Kent Young Chef initiative and the youngsters’ ability and competence. He congratulated the young chefs and applauded them for their ability.

Before presenting the winners and runners-up with their prizes, Head Judge, Richard Phillips, gave a brief synopsis of the dishes and an overview of the highlights of the 2016 competition. Richard said “All the finalists should be very proud of the way they have represented themselves today. I have been impressed by how calm and collected they all were in the kitchen during their preparation. Cooking in a new environment is a mark of a true cook. Needless to say the eight plates of food that were presented to us were quite astonishing. These young people should be very proud of themselves.”

Kieran and Liam were invited to receive their 2016 trophies supported by Aford Awards and professional chef equipment sponsored by CCS. All finalists were given a certificate and an invitation from Richard to spend a day in one of his restaurant kitchens. In addition the two winners have been offered a day work experience at Rowhill Grange near Dartford. They will also automatically qualify for South East Regional Final of Future Chefs which will be held in February 2016 as well as an invitation from Matthew Kearsey-Lawson, the mastermind and owner of multi-award winning, Kent Fine Foods to take part in a cookery demonstration at the Kent County Show in July 2017.

Stephanie Durling, organiser said, “We have had another very closely fought ‘Cook Off’ this year and could not host this competition without the support we have from the judges. It seems that each year the standard gets higher and their job becomes more difficult. This is a very positive sign that young people are beginning to understand where food comes from and this links very well to the work that Produced in Kent does with some of the county’s best producers. We are also grateful to our sponsors, Lesley Hedges and Darren Collins from HIT and Tony Blake from kff in Aylesford. We appreciate the time taken out of their busy schedule to come along today and support us”.

Produced in Kent, organiser, is indebted to all the other companies and organisations that support the initiative Rowhill Grange Hotel, Mid Kent College for providing the venue, Aford Awards, 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.

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