Best young chef contest finds new talent

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The heat was on last week as the final of Berkshire's Best Young Chef competition took place at the new Hospitality & Catering Academy at Langley College.

Seven of the county's talented young cooks, who were all aged 12-19, battled it out in a masterchef-style contest, organised by East Berkshire College and Berkshire Media Group.

Now in its second year, the contest saw the finalists create their best dish for a panel of some of the UK's top chefs including Michelin star chef and star of BBC2's Best Ever Dishes, Tom Kerridge, Head Chef at the Hand & Flowers in Marlow, Aaron Mulliss, and award-winning pastry chef, Will Torrent.

Chrissy Agius impressed the judges with her classic Floating Islands dish complete with sugar basket to win the top prize in the age 12-15 age category. Meanwhile, Bradley Montague-Fowley was victorious in the 16-19 category with his superb dish of Roast Pork Fillet with Betroot Puree, Grilled Butternut Squash, Wild Mushrooms and Port Sauce.

The budding young chefs were given just 90mins to cook their mouth-watering dishes for the chance to win over £1,000 worth of prizes. Prizes that included a meal at the two Michelin star Hand & Flowers, a meal and masterclass at the prestigious Oakely Court Hotel in Windsor, a signed copy of Will Torrent's new book 'Chocolate at Home' and a 5kg bar of the finest Belgian chocolate from Callebaut as well as a collection of baking accessories courtesy of Sainsbury's Uxbridge Road store and The Pampered Chef.

A thrilled Chrissy Agius (aged 14, from Langley) said: "I really enjoyed taking part in the final and I honestly did not expect to win. It was an unforgettable experience. I'm hoping to go to Oakley Court Hotel for my masterclass in half term and I'm really looking forward to it."

Equally delighted by his win in the age 16-19 category, Bradley Montague-Fowley (aged 19, from Newbury) explains: "The competition was a great experience and it was good to challenge myself. I practiced my dish five times before the final. I think my parents are probably sick of eating pork now!

"I think winning will be a great springboard for my career and will look great on my CV. It was fantastic to meet Tom Kerridge. He's just like how he is on TV. He's definitely the kind of chef I would like to work with in the future."

Commenting on judging the dishes, Tom Kerridge said: "The standard of dishes was very high this year, which made the job of judging harder for us. Some of the dishes were so good they could have been served in any professional restaurant."

Fellow judge Will Torrent agrees: "It's so important to encourage young talent and get people excited about the hospitality industry – and this competition does just that. We have two amazing winners that are going to be bright young stars in the future and I can't wait to judge the contest again next year."

While the contestants were hard at work on their dishes, East Berkshire College's talented catering students showcased their skills by creating and serving a delicious selection of canapés to guests, including local dignitaries, businesses, schools and parents.

Opened in October 2013, the stunning Hospitality & Catering Academy is part of the College's £30m investment in its Langley College. The academy works in partnership with some of the most prestigious restaurants, contract caterers and hotels within the region to provide students with the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business.

Helping to meet the training needs of local businesses in this thriving sector, the facility accommodates professional training kitchens and a working restaurant. Providing a real work environment for students, the Zest restaurant is open to the public and serves a range of delicious seasonal dishes at competitive prices. All food is cooked and served by talented students under the supervision of industry-trained staff.

From professional cookery to front of house service, the new academy offers an array of full-time and part-time courses, including apprenticeships. For further information on East Berkshire College and its extensive range of over 800 courses, including apprenticeships, click here or call 0845 373 2500.

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