Chesterfield College students cater for Food and Drink Awards
Imagine having to cook for a guest who has made cakes for the Queen, Sir Paul McCartney and David Beckham and cater for north Derbyshire's top hotel bosses, chefs and cafe owners?
That order would have most people nibbling their nails with nerves or getting a little hot under the collar.
Not so for cookery students who are relishing the opportunity to show the 254 guests, including celebrity chef Mich Turner, just what they’re made of at Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards on Wednesday, October 26.
More than 120 young people studying professional cookery, hospitality and catering, travel and tourism at Chesterfield College, guided by their tutors, will ensure that the big night runs smoothly.
Chef lecturer Ian Matthews said: “It’s a massive team effort from all the departments. This year the awards night is during the half-term holiday so students and lecturers will come in off their own bat and begin preparations on the Monday.
“It’s not just the pressure of cooking but the expectations are high because the students are cooking for people in the industry. The standard we achieve is amazing - it must be good because the guests keep coming back.”
Preparing, cooking and serving up so many meals operates like a well-oiled machine, honed over the past three years that the college has hosted the event.
The kitchen will be a hive of activity but there’s no room for outbursts in the heat of the moment. Ian said: “A chef who shouts has lost control.”
Meals are cooked in an upstairs kitchen then transported in a lift to the Heartspace dining room where they are put onto hotplates.
Tom Cone, 24, of Goatscliff Cottages, Grindleford, will be among those preparing this year’s two-course meal. He said: “Each student has a role - they have to when there is so many guests. Last year my job was to put pork onto plates and make some crackling.”
The skills Tom has picked up on the Level 3 Professional Cookery course have been invaluable. “When you’re working in a kitchen you learn a lot about how things are done such as sauces and the different names for them,” he said.
Between studies, Tom helps out at The Barrel Inn in Bretton which his parents have run for 20 years.
Three teenagers who have been involved in practice sessions for the awards night will be able to sit back and enjoy the ceremony while student pals cook their meals.
Sophie Warren, Jordan Elliott and Josh Clark are finalists in the Young Chef of the Year category and will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner James Greatorex who is now working in Heston Blumenthal’s famed restaurant The Fat Duck.
The winner is a closely-guarded secret until the awards night but was chosen at a live cook-off involving the three students who are on a professional cookery course. The judges included Adam Warwick, head chef at Blu Bistro in Chesterfield, Chris Mapp, chef and owner of The Tickled Trout in Barlow, and Adam Stockton, head chef of Calabria Cocina in Chesterfield.
Sophie, 18, of Eckington, said: “We pretty much chose what we cooked; I made fish pie with warm tartar sauce and chocolate fondant with spiced pear.
“We were given a time slot of about an hour and half to prepare, get the meal ready and on the table - I was panicking at first.”
Sophie works part-time at The Peacock in Barlow. She said: “Winning would be good for my cv and help my career. I want to travel and cook everywhere.”
Jordan, 19, said: “I was surprised to get into the final - there were twelve students in the running for it.”
For the cook-off, he chose rump steak with baby lettuce sauce and a strawberry and cream sponge with lemon curd.
His favourite meal is lasagne, the first dish he ever cooked, and one day he would like to open an Italian restaurant.
Jordan cooks for his family at home in Codnor three or four times a week and has a part-time job at a Mrs C’s chip shop in Loscoe.
Culinary talents are in the genes for the third finalist Josh, who lives in Walton. He said: “My dad and grandma got me into cooking. Her meat and potato pie is the absolute best, even my dad agrees.”
Josh, 17, wowed the cook-off judges with rack of lamb with summer vegetables and custard tart. He said: “It was a great experience.”
He works at the Tickled Trout and cites Gordon Ramsay and Keith Floyd as his food heroes.
The Rev Patrick Coleman from the Crooked Spire church which sponsors the award category also took part in the judging. He said: “I was really interested and excited to see three young people doing such great work. The Church encourages young people on their way through life and the Young Chef of the Year Award is a great foundation for any young chef’s future career.”