CRG’s Rose: Bring on the girls to help level the playing field in pro kitchens

Coral Rose, managing director of the Country Range Group is urging more girls to enter the Group’s Student Chef Challenge to help level the playing field in the often male-dominated professional kitchens.

One of the most prestigious competitions in the student catering calendar, the Country Range Student Chef Challenge is now open for entries and provides full-time hospitality and catering college students with the perfect platform to improve their cooking skills, knowledge and technique, while developing real life experience under intense pressure and competition situations.

In 2016 and 2017, the Challenge which is run in partnership with the Craft Guild of Chefs was won by all-female teams from Loughborough College and Ayrshire College respectively.

Rose said: “It’s been fantastic to see the girls dominating the Student Chef Challenge this past couple of years and hopefully that will only encourage more to look at the professional kitchen as a career prospect. For too long women have been under represented in professional kitchens so hopefully the publicity generated around the talented Ayrshire and Loughborough teams will continue to raise the profile of female chefs and inspire more girls to take part in competitions.”

Annmarie Farr, lecturer of the 2017 winning team from Ayrshire College, agreed: “The girls triumph this year has definitely inspired more students to get into catering and that’s a fantastic thing for the industry. Whether they win or lose, the students come away from the competition with new skills, knowledge and techniques but most of all the confidence and drive they gain is incredible. Winning has brought brilliant publicity for the girls, the department and the college, which has definitely helped us develop a reputation as a top catering college and attract the next generation of Scottish female chefs.”

Now in its 24th year, the Student Chef Challenge is also an opportunity for students to gain real employment in professional kitchens, which was highlighted by 2016 winner Emily Bucknall recently gaining a job at Sat Bains Michelin-starred restaurant.

Emily’s lecturer Darren Creed commented: “For the students who have that passion to go as far as they can in food, the Student Chef Challenge opens many doors. The competition is incredibly relevant and fantastic for student’s CV’s as it tests key skills that they will need to make it in a kitchen and succeed. Emily was initially quite a shy student but after winning in 2016 she was transformed and showed she had the skills, confidence and the CV to turn her trial at Sat’s into a full-time job. She is an inspiration to me and the next generation of chefs at Loughborough so the future for female chefs is definitely bright.”

The Country Range Student Chef Challenge 2017/2018

The challenge requires teams of three students to develop a three-course, three-cover menu demonstrating their own unique interpretation of this year’s ‘Around the World in Three Spices’ theme.

The teams have a maximum budget of £15 worth of ingredients for all three covers and a different fresh or ground spice (single or bespoke blend) must be used in each of the courses.
The recipes need to be tried and tested to ensure students are able to prepare, cook and present the full menu within a 90-minute period.

Details of each course including full recipes, methodology showing menu development and understanding of the theme plus full costings and images must be submitted by the 30th November 2017 for the paper judging stage.

Lecturers can submit and complete the full team entries via www.countryrangestudentchef.co.uk or can download the PDF entry form and send it to the freepost address or email it to studentchef@countryrange.co.uk

Based on the results of the paper judging, Live Regional Heats will take place at easily-accessible catering colleges between the 22nd January – Friday 8th February 2018.

The Live Grand Final will take place on Wednesday 7th March 2018 between 11:00am – 12:30pm in front of an exhibition audience at Hotelympia 2018 – the UK’s largest foodservice and hospitality event.

In addition to taking home the much-coveted title, the three victorious students will each win a bespoke set of three Flint & Flame knives and a trip to the 2018 Universal Cookery & Food Festival, Westlands in September 2018. Here they will be guided throughout the day by various Craft Guild of Chefs’ leading chefs & ambassadors and they will be treated to one night’s accommodation and dinner at Michelin starred restaurant Simpsons in Kenilworth.

The lecturer of the winning team will also be presented with a specially selected knife set plus the winning college will receive a personalised PR package to maximise regional and industry publicity around the victory.

The Judging Criteria

The Craft Guild of Chef judges, headed by Chris Basten, provide detailed feedback to all the entrants and will be looking for the following:

Clearly defined aromas, textures and flavours that complement each other within each dish
Knowledge and understanding of cooking methods and technique to extract maximum flavour from the ingredient list

Practical culinary skills such as boning and filleting

A well-balanced menu with the three courses complementing each other

Beautiful looking dishes presented in a modern style

Minimal waste from the ingredients chosen

In the practical stages of the Challenge, judges will also mark the students team work skills and teams will also be expected to show awareness and understanding of hygiene and food safety within their working methods.

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