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News > General News > Hospitality pupil reaches National Final of FutureChef Competition

Hospitality pupil reaches National Final of FutureChef Competition

Michael, Year 11, wins Regional FutureChef competition in Belfast
11 Feb 2022
Written by Claire Bunting
General News
Michael with Future Chef judges
Michael with Future Chef judges

Michael, (Year 11, Yates’s) has been successful in the school, local and regional stages of the Future Chef competition winning the Northern Ireland final and a place to compete in the national competition in London! 

Developed by Springboard, FutureChef is a programme headed by Michelin starred chef Brian Turner that aims to support students seeking a career in the hospitality industry. Supported by Henderson Foodservice, the NI FutureChef final took place at Belfast Met’s Titanic Quarter campus on Thursday, February 10th.

Caitriona Lennox, Northern Ireland Manager at Springboard was very impressed with the standard  and quality of this year's young chefs:

'There’s nowhere quite like Northern Ireland when it comes to the standard of produce and ingredients grown and farmed here, as well as our hospitality industry which is getting back on its feet after the most challenging couple of years. We are always so impressed with what our finalists bring to the competition, and can’t wait to see how Michael does at the grand final'.

The FutureChef competition is now the biggest school culinary competition in the UK. It encourages pupils in Years 10-12 to develop practical cookery skills and helps them grow in confidence in the kitchen. The competition is designed to develop not just students’ cooking skills but also to highlight their creative abilities with food. Students must create and practice their dishes outside of school so it is a true demonstration of their enthusiasm for food.

For the regional final, students had a budget of £10 and were tasked with preparing a main dish and dessert of their choosing using produce from Northern Ireland. They were marked on their overall presentation, creativity, taste and skills, as well as their attention to sourcing local ingredients, working towards zero waste and keeping to their budget. Michael prepared stuffed chicken breast and thigh, chicken mousseline, buttery mash and chicken jus followed by an apple tart tatin with Chantilly cream and sugar spirals. 

Contestants were assigned a mentor to help with preparation and Michael was tutored by Chef John Clark at the Belfast AC Marriot. This is an invaluable opportunity for students not just to learn from an expert but also to see a professional kitchen in action. Michael faced four other contestants fand his culinary skills were assessed by celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli. Michael Dean of Dean’s Restaurants and Geoff Baird of Henderson’s Foodservice. Chef Baird remarked:

'It’s no secret that a busy kitchen can be a pressured environment. The finalists had 90 minutes to cook their main course and dessert, and they really taught us a lesson in keeping a cool head and not getting overwhelmed! It’s an essential skill to learn. I’ve been with our young chefs at every step of the competition and have been so impressed, it was fantastic to see them all cooking in their Henderson Foodservice chef whites today and I know Michael will give the other grand finalists an excellent competition in March.'

Celebrity Chef Jean-Christophe Novelli added; 'It has been a pleasure to meet the Northern Ireland finalists and to taste their exceptional cooking, they have shown talent beyond their young years. Springboard’s FutureChef competition has inspired them to be creative and learn even more culinary skill that they can take forward in their chosen careers, and I have been honoured to judge each dish and present Michael with his award. It was a privilege to be back in Belfast to judge the Northern Ireland finals, and I wish Michael the best of luck in London.'

As he was presented with his Future Chef award, Michael also received an invitation to experience a Michelin Star kitchen at Michael Deane’s EIPIC with Head Chef, Alex Greene. Guest judge Michael Deane was so impressed with the standard of culinary skills presented from all of the contestants this year.

'What an enjoyable day in the kitchen. I have been so inspired by these young chefs who have shown talent, creativity and a really wide breadth of knowledge which will serve them so well for a career in hospitality in the future. Michael is a very deserved winner from a tough competition, and we’re looking forward to giving him some real-world experience in the EIPIC kitchen very soon.'

Michael will now go on to compete against other UK finalists in the national competition in London next month. Michael reflected afterwards on his experience of the event:

'The main challenge is working in a kitchen you don't know and also the time pressure to get everything ready within the 90 minutes. Chef John Clark was a great mentor in helping me feel ready for the challenge of the event. I felt confident with what I had prepared but the other contestants were strong so I didn't think I would win. I am really grateful to John for all the guidance he shared with me and I am looking forward to the next event in London'.

As you will see from the photographs, Michael 's culinary skills are really impressive and he shows great promise for the next stage. Congratulations Michael, we wish you every success in representing Northern Ireland and Campbell College in London next month!!

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