The Guernsey Hospitality Association were delighted to be invited to judge the recent Rotary Young Chef competition.

The competition, held at the College of FE Coutanchez campus, returned after a three-year break and saw the work of seven budding cooks judged by hospitality experts Áine Sillett and Gareth Byrne.

The first prize went to 14-year-old Elizabeth College student James Robinson, whose menu consisted of a spinach bisque, Atlantic cod with caper sauce, and a dessert of a cherry and citrus indulgence. He scored 41 out of 50.

James has been into cooking for as long as he can remember, he said, after being introduced to it by his dad, and found the competition to be a step up from what he is used to in his kitchen.

“I had prepared beforehand by cooking the dish at home but there were times today when it was very stressful,” he said.

“I had a mad dash at the end and I didn’t expect to win but I’m so happy I did.”

The judges scored his dishes 41 out of 50.

He added that he enjoyed being able to add a personal touch to his creations.

“I always find it tastes better when you cook it yourself,” he said.

Gareth Byrne remarked that his main course of Atlantic cod with a caper sauce was of five-star restaurant quality.

Byrne explained that he was amazed at the quality of dishes produced by the group of 11 to 17-year-olds.

“It’s been exciting to see their passion on a plate and heartening to see balanced healthy dishes.

“I’ve been extremely impressed to see some of the techniques they used, highly commendable, especially at that age,” said Mr Byrne.

Participants were given two hours to create a three-course meal of their choice, using the commercial kitchen at the college’s campus, with the only stipulation being a £22 budget for ingredients.

Second place went to Christina Kennedy, aged 16, who scored just one mark fewer than the winner.  Christina Kennedy, who is home-schooled, picked up her love for cooking from her mum, with whom she bakes regularly. Her menu of mushrooms, salmon cakes, and a deconstructed rhubarb tart scored 40 points after the judges deliberated for nearly 45 minutes to pick between the two.

She found the competition demanding at times but was pleased to have taken part.

“It did get stressful, when under the spotlight but I had a lot of fun.”

Similarly, Christina also enjoys putting her own twist on her dishes and said that to be her favourite part of cooking.

“I love being artistic, and putting my own twist on things,” she said.

We simply couldn’t separate the front leaders so after such a close contest we have decided to offer both James and Christina the opportunity to spend a day in a restaurant kitchen to practise their culinary skills.

All participants received a Grow Ltd cookbook and a certificate.

James will go on to compete in Hampshire next month in an attempt to qualify for the national finals in April or May, with all Rotary clubs across the UK having the opportunity to compete.

Congratulations to all involved!