February half term saw students from all over Wales and England come together to compete in the Welsh International Culinary Championships, which brought together four different national competitions in an exciting week of heats. With such an enormous amount of talent shown by the contestants, the future looks bright and Major were proud to be part of such a fantastic event.
This year Major took on an exciting new venture, supporting young chefs at the Welsh International Culinary Championships as they battled it out in a number of national competitions including the National and Junior Chef of Wales, Battle for the Dragon and Skills Competition Wales finals. Over the impressive four-day competition the students demonstrated their individual abilities in a number of key areas including Knife Skills, Dessert Flambé and Vegetarian Main Courses as well as working on their team work in the Inter-College Challenge and Cook and Serve class.
As part of the competition students were given the chance to compete in three challenges from the Major Series; Major Restaurant Skills, the Major Street Food Challenge and the Major Hot Chicken Challenge. These received such an overwhelming response that an extra day of competition had to be added to allow for the number of entries. As the heats got underway we were in for a treat and the bar was set high right from day one.
With encouragement and support from their fellow students, the competitors put on an excellent show in all three Major classes and delicious aromas soon began to drift from the kitchens as the Street Food heats got underway. Inspired by the range of global flavours they could choose from, the contestants created dishes from all four corners of the world, with everything from Mediterranean Lamb Koftas to Korean Popcorn Chicken being seen amongst the entries.
However, John Nismal from Loughborough College decided to go for something a little more unusual with his Street Food creation which proved to be a good move as his Pan-Asian Tengang Baboy wowed the judges winning him a gold medal and Best in Class. “Pigs ears came to mind as soon as I thought of Street Food and they fitted perfectly with the fact that I wanted to create something unique. The Vegetable Pan-Asian Base really complemented the other flavours of my dish and helped to enhance the ginger in it.”
It seemed from talking to them that all the students had relished the chance to experiment with Major’s products in the run up to the competition. Rajan Sing, from Coleg y Cymoedd, Cardiff, was a serial competitor taking part in a total of seven different classes and enjoyed experimenting with Major’s products so much that he used them in classes where they weren’t even a requirement! “When experimenting at home, I found that Major’s products had just the right amount of flavour for my dishes which is why I ended up using them in so many challenges,” he said. “I’m keen to learn as much as I can whilst I’m still young which is why I pushed myself to compete in so many challenges this year.”
The opportunity to compete in small competitions at college level is invaluable for student chefs as it teaches them more about the competition environment, hopefully inspiring them to compete at a higher level and also introduces them to the kind of pressure they’ll experience in workplace kitchens. “I think it’s really important that we as professional chefs, support the younger generations and their development,” says Dragan Unic, Worldchefs’ Continental Director for Northern Europe. He and Arwyn Watkins, President of The Culinary Association of Wales, both mentioned how important competitions can be in helping young chefs build on the skills they’re learning in class with Arwyn adding, “Competitions are a great opportunity for students to network with other chefs and future employers, especially this week where they have been interacting with the public as well as students from other colleges.”
Encouragement from lecturers plays a big part in giving students the confidence to enter competitions like the Welsh Championships. Hedydd Davies from Coleg Ceredigion was encouraged to enter by her lecturers and her lavender, classical music themed table setting ending up winning a gold medal and Best in Class, which is fantastic considering this is her first time ever competing in a competition. “I was encouraged by my lecturers to enter but I also wanted to challenge myself to see if I could do it. I’ve been practicing for months and although it’s been stressful, I’ve really enjoyed it.”
With heats taking place across three days, Best in Class for the Major Chicken Challenge was announced at the Awards Dinner on Thursday evening. It was a close call for the judges with a number of outstanding dishes coming out of the heats including a Moroccan Apricot and Chicken Tagine that won Safya Atta, student at Coventry College, a gold medal. However, the overall winner was Jolanta Latosinska from Coleg Cambria whose dish wowed the judges with its balanced flavours. Jolanta and Runner Up Aaron Osmond from Coleg Ceredigion will go on to compete against the other regional class winners at the Great Hospitality show in 2019.
At the end of a fantastic competition Major would like to say a massive congratulations to all of the competitors, medal winners and finalists and a big thank you to The Culinary Association of Wales for inviting us to be a part of the competition. We can’t wait to see what the students bring to the table next year!
Find out more!
For more information about the championships, take a look at the competitions page on the Welsh Culinary Associations website!