Students taste the big time in NWRC Le Manoir cook-off

All competing Chefs from the six FE Colleges pictured with their awards (seated from left) Kym Hamilton, Northern Regional College; Annie Heatley, Southern Regional College; Daniel Wormell, South Eastern Regional College; Lauren Beavers (winner), South West College; Padraig Shields, Belfast Metropolitan College; Joanne McCallion, North West Regional College. The Commis Chefs stand in support of their chefs (from left) Karen Rourke (NRC); Samuel Martin (SRC); Declan Magoran (SERC); Adam McAdoo (SWC); Jonjo Kyles (BMC); Katriona Lynch (NWRC).

All competing Chefs from the six FE Colleges pictured with their awards (seated from left) Kym Hamilton, Northern Regional College; Annie Heatley, Southern Regional College; Daniel Wormell, South Eastern Regional College; Lauren Beavers (winner), South West College; Padraig Shields, Belfast Metropolitan College; Joanne McCallion, North West Regional College. The Commis Chefs stand in support of their chefs (from left) Karen Rourke (NRC); Samuel Martin (SRC); Declan Magoran (SERC); Adam McAdoo (SWC); Jonjo Kyles (BMC); Katriona Lynch (NWRC).

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The cream of Northern Ireland’s student chefs have gone head to head in a Derry cook off to win a chance to work at Raymond Blanc’s world famous restaurant.

Culinary talent from Northern Ireland’s six further education colleges converged on North West Regional College (NWRC) last Thursday to battle it out in the inaugural Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons Placement Award, a unique competition aimed at developing the next generation of professional chefs.

Sponsored by the local rotary club, this exciting culinary competition gave one lucky student chef the opportunity to win an exclusive two week work placement at Raymond Blanc’s famous establishment in Oxfordshire in England.

The final six students had the honour of representing their colleges after winning their respective heat competitions, and during the final ‘cook-off’ they had to impress star judges Mark Peregrine, Head Chef at Le Manoir’s Cookery School, and recent Janus award winning restaurant owner Sean Owens, a former student at the NWRC. Their task was to prepare a four course meal using local produce ingredients, in front of a live packed audience in NWRC’s exclusive Flying Clipper Restaurant.

Throughout the evening the judging panel expressed their praise at the standard and quality of culinary skills which were displayed by each of the finalists.

Head Judge, Sean Owens, said: “Each finalist at this event is a winner…we have been overwhelmed by the standard of skills on view, especially the attention to every detail they make to their work. It is safe to say that the future of catering in this country is very much in safe hands.”

But only one placement at the top restaurant was available and the judge’s vote went to South West College student Lauren Beavers, whose placement prize to Le Manoir will also include accommodation and mentorship from staff at the two-Michelin starred complex.

Representing the local North West Regional College student was Joanne McCallion, who already this year has represented NWRC at the Worldskills event in London 2011, and has starred for the college during a special showcasing event in Parliament Buildings Stormont.

Karen McLaughlin, Head of School for Hospitality, Tourism and Sport at NWRC said the inaugural staging of the Le Manoir event was a “roaring success” for everyone involved, not least for the competing students and their commis chefs.

“To have the opportunity to test their skills in direct competition against peers from the other Northern Ireland colleges in front of a live audience and top professional chefs, they are sure to remember this for many years to come.

“We would like to thank all of the representatives from the Northern Ireland Colleges for making the event so memorable, staff and students, as well as the Londonderry Rotary Club for their invaluable sponsorship.

“We have no doubt that those in attendance were treated to a fantastic evening of top quality dining and atmosphere, and we wish Lauren every success on her placement at Le Manoir later this year.”

The Judges presented each finalist with a commemorative medal and certificate in acknowledgement of their efforts in the competition.