There was a buzz in the air around Coventry College on Thursday 31st May, as students from six different colleges got ready to compete in the final heats of the Major Series 2018/19.
With the Street Food Challenge kicking things off in the live kitchen, it wasn’t long before delicious smells were drifting through the corridors. Clearly having done their homework, the students created a variety of dishes from around the world and there were numerous Major products scattered across their stations as they got to work. Lindi Mpofu, from Coventry College, used an amazing four products in her Lamb Peshwari dish, which ended up winning a Silver Medal and Best in Class. “I choose to use the Lamb and Roast Onion Stocks and the Tandoori and Bombay Mari Bases in my dish because I felt they really worked together and enhanced the flavours in my dish,” she said. “I really enjoy competing because it kind of resembles the pressure you feel during service.”
Getting the chance to take part in competitions like the Major Series can go a long way towards improving the students’ confidence in their abilities, as Andrew Crompton, Front of House Lecturer at Coventry College, knows only too well. “We always encourage the students to take part in the different competitions because it makes such a big difference to them at the end of their studies,” he said. “They often start saying that they can’t do it but after a bit of practice they begin gaining confidence and then they come back having won their medals and they’re absolutely brimming.”
As part of the Restaurant Skills challenge, the students have to create a non-alcoholic cocktail using the Major Fruit Bases. James Charlesworth, from Loughborough College, tried a few different recipes whilst practicing before settling on the Apple Mojito he made during the heats. “I tried a cocktail called the Good Morning Sunshine when practicing which used the Raspberry and Clementine Fruit Bases but I decided in the end that the Lemon Fruit Base in the Mojito worked better.” However, it was Lucas Bates from North Warwickshire and Hinckley College who took away the prize for Best in Class despite outstanding performance by all of the Restaurant Skills competitors.
Back in the live kitchens, the Pasta Challenge was well underway and Jack Todd, from Cambridge Regional College, was half way through creating his Creamy Mushroom Pasta. Today was his first time competing in a competition but having been encouraged to enter by his head chef and a fellow competitor, he ended up taking away a Silver Medal and Best in Class. “I used the Major Mushroom Stock Base in my pasta because it fitted best with my dish,” he said. “It’s been a really good experience today and has been a chance to meet other chefs and see what tips I could get from them.”
Encouragement from peers and lecturers is massively important to the students as they prepare for their heats, as it’s a chance for them to pick up extra skills outside of lectures and Darren Creed, Senior Chef Lecturer at Loughborough College says the experience is invaluable to them. “It’s really good because they can experiment with the different Major products in a new way. It’s not just the usual vegetables and stuff, its incorporating different flavours into sauces and into dishes that can bring the whole thing together.” When asked what he thought of the students’ use of the Major products today, joint judge of the live classes, Paul Bench who is Head Chef at the Golden Cross in Coventry said, “it was good to see the students using so many different products in their dishes. It’s something I wouldn’t necessarily have done but I thought it worked out really well and my only advice would be to keep doing what they’re doing.”
Throughout the day, Wayne Harris from the Craft Guild of Chefs had been busy judging the static entries. These classes are another chance for the students to experiment with the Major Stocks and Fruit Bases. A keen lover of black forest anything, Mary Harper from Loughborough College who competed in the Static Bread and Decorated Gateau classes, used the Cherry Fruit Base in her chocolate gateau and ambitiously gave herself the task of trying to use all of the available stocks in her bread rolls. “I wanted to try and use all three of the stocks in my rolls but in the end I only used the Mediterranean Vegetable and the Cheese because I liked the flavour these gave together.” Her ambition clearly paid off in the end, as she took away a Silver medal for her bread and a Gold medal and the prize for Best Overall Static for her gateau.
The final live class of the day was the Chicken Challenge, which took place over two intense heats. Crowds of anxious supporters stood by the door to watch as the students battled it out and some excellent dishes were presented on the judging table at the end of the 50-minute heats. Bartlomiej Wieczór, from Westminster Kingsway College, who had already competed in the Street Food Challenge earlier in the day, made Chicken Ballotine with Black Pudding and Blue Cheese, Purple Truffle Potatoes and an Apple Cider and Chicken Jus. “I’ve enjoyed competing ever since I got a silver medal in my first competition because it’s a chance to challenge myself and put my skills to the test.” Having said he hoped for a good result, Bart came away with a Gold Medal and a place as Runner Up in today’s chicken challenge, which means he may get a chance to compete in the Grand final at The Great Hospitality Show in 2019.
However, one person who will definitely be competing in the Grand Final is Finlay Royle from Loughborough College who’s Roasted Poussin with Veal Butter Potatoes, Piri Piri Vegetables and a Red Wine and Veal Jus won her a gold medal and the title of Overall Winner. “I found trying to come up with a dish that incorporated the Major products really interesting and was happy with my choice of the Piri Piri Mari Base and Veal Jus in the end,” she said. “Competing has always given me a thrill I never thought I’d have and today was probably one of my favourite competitions.”
With today’s heat concluding the 2018/19 regional heats, its time to look forward to the Grand Final at the Great Hospitality Show 2019 and we want to wish all the competitors the best of luck!
It’s not too late!
Then 2018/19 heats may be over but it’s never too soon to start preparing for next year’s competition!
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