PRODUCED IN KENT NAME TOP YOUNG CHEFS 2017  – 22nd November 2017

Olivia Lowe, from Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, and Leah Matthews from New Line Learning Academy, also in Maidstone,  have been named Senior and Junior winners of the Kent Young Chef Award 2017at the ‘Live Cook Off’ at East Kent College, Broadstairs Campus.

Olivia Lowe, Senior Winner

The eight finalists; four Junior and four Senior, took part in the live final at the College’s catering facilities, located on the top floor of their Inspire building.  The eight young chefs prepared and cooked 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.

The four Kent based Judges, led by Chef Patron of the West House, Graham Garrett,  had the incredibly difficult task of selecting the winners. The addition of a second dessert course this year, meant the judges job was harder to find the stand-out winners in each age category. The judging process took considerable time, with the judges thoroughly discussing the merits of each dish.  In the end, it proved to be a very closely matched competition with incredibly high standards from all the finalists.

Leah Matthews Junior winner

The Senior winner, Olivia, aged 14, presented a perfectly cooked walnut crusted cod with parsnip puree, purple sprouting broccoli and buttered carrots. Her dessert was a ‘Forager’s Tart’, an accomplished dessert, consisting of a Kentish Cobnut Pastry Tartlet with a Bramley and Berry filling.  Olivia took part as a Junior last year, and whilst she did not win, this inspired her to take part in other local cookery competitions and return this year with more experience.

Junior winner, Leah Matthews, aged 13, served a dish she entitled ‘Loose Duck Race’ a seared, spiced, Duck Breast served with Kentish Lavender and Honey.  Leah served her duck with Shitake Mushrooms and Wilted Spinach.  Her dessert, ‘Caught up in the Brambles’ was a baked Kentish Cox Apple, with Roasted Kentish Cobnut Crumble.

On being announced Junior winner, Leah was speechless, she said “I am really new to cooking and hadn’t really thought much about it until I went to New Line Learning. My teacher Mrs Thomas saw that I had potential, so she has encouraged me to practice. This is my first competition and I am shocked to have won”.

Head Judge Graham Garrett, said “The majority of the 16 dishes presented for judging this year were outstanding and the young cooks knowledge about cooking methods, the importance of quality ingredients and seasonality was refreshing.  Seven of the desserts used apples, which is an ideal autumn fruit to use.  Half of the desserts used Cobnuts and this shows a real understanding of a wonderfully unique Kentish ingredient”.

Judge and Sponsor, Tony Blake, Commercial Manager, kff, said “There were some truly exceptional plates of food this year.  We all agreed that Niamh McCauley’s Kentish Apple and Cobnut Frangipane Tart was perfect.  It was the standout dish of the day.  Unfortunately, some very minor errors with her main dish meant she did not get placed first. The Judges deliberation was very difficult this year, with both the Juniors and Seniors presenting some really technically challenging and refined dishes”.

The Judging Panel of Graham Garrett owner of Michelin Star, The West House in Biddenden, Tony Blake, Commercial Manager – kff, Patrick Hill, Head Chef at Thackerays, Tunbridge Wells and Roger Phillips from East Kent College, all noted how well the finalists worked in the kitchen.

Stephanie Durling from Produced in Kent, said “This year’s competition has proved to be one of the best we’ve seen in terms of quantity and quality of the entries. We are delighted with the results. We have a number of outstanding catering colleges in Kent and each year we try and rotate the location for the Kent Young Chef Award Final.  It has been a few years since we have been at East Kent College and are grateful to all the staff and students who helped create a wonderful atmosphere and provided a lovely buffet lunch for everyone

The three Junior runner-ups were Alice Bruford from Maidstone Girls Grammar School with a Venison Burger and Homemade Bun followed by Pumpkin Pie, Joseph Creasy with a hearty Pork Casserole and Herb Dumplings followed by Autumn Fruit Crumble. The final Junior finalist was Rohan Selva-Radov with an inspired Kentish Fish Masala and a Cardamom Apple Cake.

Patrick Hill, Head Chef at Thackerays, said “The Juniors all produced great dishes and I was particularly looking forward to tasting Rohan’s fusion dishes. His potato masala showed a real knowledge of spices and was very tasty.  I was also impressed that Alice managed to make her own burger bun for her dish in the allotted time”.

Kent Young Chef 2017, East Kent College, Broadstairs. Picture:

The three Senior runners-up were Millie Morris from Invicta Grammar School in Maidstone, with venison, sweet and sour parsnips and curly kale and a sticky toffee apple pudding for dessert.  Kieran Jones, last year’s winner, from Homewood School Tenterden, also served venison with pomme puree, cavelo nero, roasted celeriac and a Bordelaise sauce, finishing with an apple and blackberry souffle for dessert.  The final Senior finalist was Niamh McCauley who made a Pheasant Ravioli served with a wild mushroom sauce.  Her dessert, apple and cobnut frangipane tart, was the best dish of the day.

On being announced, Olivia Lowe,  senior winner was delighted, “I was really surprised when they announced my name, I entered this competition last year and really enjoyed it, so then I took part in  another Kent competition and won. Kent Young Chef really motivated me to cook more and really experiment with ingredients”.

Broadstairs and St. Peter’s Mayor Cllr Peter Shaw and Mayoress, Mrs Frances Shaw, were guests of honour  and they 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, Graham Garrett, gave a brief synopsis of the dishes and an overview of the highlights of the 2017 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.”

Olivia and Leah were invited to receive their 2017 trophies sponsored  by Aford Awards and professional chef equipment sponsored by Continental Chefs Supplies (CCS). All finalists were given a certificate, a personalised chefs jacket and a professional chef’s knife used by some of the world’s best chefs supplied by CCS. The two winners  will also automatically qualify for South East Regional Final of Springboard’s Future Chefs which will be held in February 2018.

Stephanie Durling, from Produced in Kent said, “We are delighted with the standard all our finalists showed today.  The fact that they had to make four plates of food this year has not seemed to faze them, the desserts, which we introduced for the first time this year, were exceptional .  We are very grateful to our sponsors from HIT Training, and kff in Aylesford and appreciate the time taken out of their busy schedule to come along today and support us”.

Produced in Kent is a trade 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.

For more information about the Produced in Kent Young Chef Award  or email

2017Images available on request from Gill Collins, Ether Creative Ltd,, 01622 600276/07720376321

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