Students Shine Bright in the Durham Heats!

On Wednesday 28th March, students from New College Durham and Hartlepool College took to the kitchens to compete in the third heat of the 2018/19 Major Series and with a huge amount of talent on show, students of all levels impressed the judges with their skills and creativity
As this year’s Major Series reached its halfway point, the hospitality and catering department at New College Durham got ready to host another day of exciting heats. Beginning with the Pasta Class, things got off to a great start with the Level 1 students producing some excellent dishes considering they only started studying in September. Alex Gladwin from New College Durham, who at the end of the day took away a gold medal and Best in Class for his Wild Mushroom Ravioli, said “Getting the opportunity to compete today pushed me to go for something a bit harder and I really enjoyed competing although it was nerve-racking.” His lecturer, Lynn Mitchenson is always very supportive of her students and encourages them to get involved in any opportunities that come up. “It’s so important that they take advantage of the opportunities they have in college so that they can build their confidence and learn more about the industry as a stepping stone into what will hopefully be a positive career.” 
The next live class to take place was the Street Food Challenge, which saw two heats of students and a range of dishes from around the world coming out of the kitchens including a Mexican burrito, Hickory burger and Bombay Chicken Stir Fry. However, the winning entry, cooked by Ben Hart from Hartlepool College, was an Asian inspired Stir Fry made using the Major Thai Mari Base and Pan-Asian Chicken Broth, inventively served in a coconut shell. “I really enjoyed experimenting with the Major products and choosing which ones went well together. It’s only my first competition but I’d love to do it again next year.” In preparation for today’s competition, both colleges did a lot of work with the products to help develop their understanding of them. “Its really important that the students gain a good understanding of the Major products before the competition and working directly with Major and the Craft Guild of Chefs really inspires the students and we’re getting more students wanting to enter every year,” said Kevin Dove, Lecturer at Hartlepool College.
The final live class of the day was the Chicken Challenge, which saw students of all levels compete for a place in next year’s grand final. “I did a lot of research into different recipes when I was getting ready and then it was a case of making sure it all tasted right and went together well,” said New College Durham student Ceri Cooper whose Moroccan Chicken with Apricots and Herbed Cous Cous earned her a gold medal and a place as Runner Up. However, it was fellow New College Durham student Kirsty Bell who won a gold medal and Best in Class for her Tandoori Marinated Chicken Leg stuffed with Mango and Coriander. “I really enjoyed experimenting with the different flavours when I was practicing and getting the chance to do things outside of what we’re learning in class is really useful.”
Kirsty and Ceri also impressed in the Static Classes with their Gateaux both winning gold medals and Kirsty also being awarded the prize for Best Overall Static. Alongside Wayne Harris from the Craft Guild of Chefs, Phoebe Garland, student at Hartlepool College and Major Series Finalist spent the day judging the Static Classes and was impressed with what she saw. “The standard today has been really good and it was interesting to see things from the other side,” she said. “Something like this is all really good experience for your CV but it also helps to get your speed up which helps at work and college.”
The final classes of the day were the Assorted Coffee Challenge and Restaurant Skills which both challenged the students to get creative with the Major Fruit Bases. Andrew Collinson from New College Durham chose to use the Strawberry Fruit Base in his cocktail, which accompanied his gold medal worthy Irish themed table setting. Speaking about competing and how taking part will help his studies, he said, “I’m hoping that I’ll be able to learn from any mistakes I’ve made today so that I can improve on them in college and use what I learn to do something different next year.”
At the end of the day, the students gathered in the restaurant for the highly anticipated results and there were smiles all round as the medals rolled in. “It’s great to physically see the students’ confidence boosted when they get a good result, especially if they aren’t expecting it,” said Paul Richardson, Lecturer in Hospitality and Catering at New College Durham. “It’s one of the reasons we like to host the Major Series here as well as the fact it gives the students the chance to compete against other colleges and their peers.”
Someone who knows the benefits of competing whilst in college, is previous New College Durham student and Major Series finalist Ryan Gray, “getting competitions down on your CV is definitely worthwhile, I found it really helped me when I was applying for jobs in university.” Ryan came back to judge the live classes alongside Major’s Foodservice Development Chef, Fergus Martin. Both commented on how impressed they had been with the standard throughout the day, especially from the students who have only been in college for a short time. “I’ve been really impressed by all the students today and there was a good use of the Major products throughout the classes with the students demonstrating that they understood their uses and their flavours,” said Fergus.

Coming Up!
Thursday 31st May – Major Series Heat 4 – Coventry College
Find out more!
To find out more about the Major Series or how to get involved, head to our competitions page or visit the Craft Guild of Chefs website!