Young chefs from Birmingham cook up a storm in culinary competition

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Six budding young chefs from schools across Birmingham and the West Midlands wowed judges in the final of a regional cooking competition.

The final of the Busy Bees Training Greens to Gourmet competition took place at the Harborne Food School on Wednesday 12 October 2016, and saw six food technology students from schools in and around Birmingham create tasty and healthy dishes.

After the success of last year’s competition, students were keen to impress the judging panel, which consisted of the current holder of the Greens to Gourmet title, Tre Whitlock from Wheeler’s Technology College. Tre joined guest judge and award-winning chef director, Luke Tipping, from Birmingham’s top Michelin-star restaurant, Simpsons; Birmingham restaurant critic Paul Fulford; and Michael Loach, Catering IQA at Busy Bees Training.

Earlier in the year, the students were asked to prepare a delicious meal from one of two mystery bags filled with healthy, seasonal ingredients. The most impressive dishes made it through the preliminary heats and into the finals, where the guest judges were faced with the difficult task of choosing an overall winner.

Competition was fierce, and it was a closely contested final. In the end, Demarni Rowe, a 14-year-old student from the City of Birmingham School (Bridge Centre), took home the top prize of an exclusive paid-for family meal at Simpsons Restaurant and cooking experience at the Simpsons Cookery School. Demarni cooked up some delicious Jamaican jerk salmon patties on a bed of seasoned roasted vegetables.

Following his victory in the Greens to Gourmet competition, Demarni said: ‘I felt like crying when I found out I had won – I honestly didn’t expect it at all! I just wanted to make my mum and family proud and I hope I’ve managed to do that.

‘I wanted to create something a bit different with my dish and thought that if I used jerk seasoning it would give a bit of an edge to my dish. I would like to go on to pursue a career as a chef; it’s something I thoroughly enjoy doing and my dad is a chef too, so it would be great to follow in his footsteps one day!’

As well as forming part of the judging panel, Luke Tipping offered expert tips and advice to the entrants to support and guide them throughout the final. As an advocate of the ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ campaign, the ingredients available to the students, as suggested by Luke, were some of the best seasonal produce found in the UK.

Speaking of his involvement in the final and Greens to Gourmet competition, Luke said: ‘The students really raised the bar this year. I was particularly impressed with the amount of thought and effort that had clearly gone into the dishes. I don’t think I would’ve been able to cook to such a standard during my teenage years! We hope that the students enjoyed the day and if the competition inspires them to go on and pursue a career in catering, then it certainly makes it all worthwhile.’

Commenting on the winning dish, Luke said: ‘All the finalists were great today, and it was close to call, but Demarni deserved to win as he took the ingredients and put his own spin on the dish using his cultural roots. The salmon patties were very unique and there was a nice balance to the seasoning. It was wonderful to see each of the young chefs’ commitment to producing quality, fresh food and if they continue to show the same level of determination, then I’m sure they’ll go on to make great chefs one day.’

Training Manager at Busy Bees Training Academy Fay Gibbin said: ‘This year’s competition was even better and bigger than last year’s. We’re already looking forward to next year’s and we’d love to hear from schools in and around Birmingham who would like to take part.

'Busy Bees Training Academy currently offers catering apprenticeships throughout our nurseries, as well as within external independent settings, so we know the level of imagination and passion young people can bring to the industry. We hope that Greens to Gourmet will encourage all of our finalists and inspire others students to pursue their passion for cooking, as well as offer them the chance to take part in a fun and creative activity that provides them with an exciting learning experience beyond the classroom.'

For more information, visit: busybeestraining.co.uk.

Creative Teaching & Learning
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