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Essential Cuisine

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Students Shine Bright in Inter College Culinary Challenge

23rd June 2023

Essential Cuisine are delighted to have taken part and sponsored the 'Inter College Culinary Challenge' that took place on Tuesday 20th June 2023 at City College Southampton in their industry-standard training kitchens and Aspire Restaurant.

Over 70 students across five colleges (City College Southampton, Eastleigh College, Fareham College, Basingstoke College of Technologycompeted on their culinary skills, cocktail/mocktail making, professional table lay-up, pasta, and other hospitality skills. 

We would like to offer a huge congratulations to everyone that took part in this amazing event.
Overall College winner – Eastleigh College

Joe Abbess Memorial Award – Olivia Leigh, Eastleigh College

Pasta Class, Gold Best in Class – Fiona King, City College Southampton

Gallo Rice Risotto Dish, Gold Best in Class – Jamie Rowe, Eastleigh College

Vegetable Cuts, Gold Best in Class – Olivia Leigh, Eastleigh College

Mystery Box Challenge, Gold Best in Class – Jonty King, Fareham College

Restaurant Table Lay Up, Gold Best in Class – Maddison Lipscombe, Eastleigh College

Mocktail or Cocktail making, Gold Best in Class – Sam Jurd, Eastleigh College
Simon Hart, Senior Teacher in Hospitality, City College Southampton stated, “I find student competitions a great way to stretch learning and to help get them ready for the workplace. It gives students the opportunity to excel and a competitive edge required in the industry. It is important that students enjoy what they are doing if they are going to progress into head chef/manager roles and this is often the first step on that journey. Students have the opportunity to talk and learn from the experienced judges, so they are able to improve their skills going forward. It is invaluable to have Harvest and Essential Cuisine as well as other industry sponsors willing to donate their time, products and experience that allows us to run such events. This year especially it was great to run the best overall student category and name it after one of our rising stars that tragically died earlier this year. The ‘Joe Abbess memorial award’ will allow us to create a legacy for him”.

We chatted with students throughout the day and had some lovely, inspirational conversations.

Nicole Toni, City College Southampton, studying L1 Culinary Skills quoted “I’m thoroughly enjoying my course and hopefully one day will open my own B&B or Restaurant”.

Jonty King, Fareham College studying L2 Professional Cookery entered the Mystery Box category and quoted “I entered the competition as I want to embrace fine dining and combine it with travelling the world when I finish my course”.

Libby Irving, Basingstoke College studying Hospitality & Catering L2 says “I entered the competition to gain confidence and have fun – I’ve been practicing all week”.

Owen Tregear-Allen, Eastleigh College studying Hospitality & Catering L2 entered the Pasta category and stated, “I’m very excited about this competition and want to win, I have big expectations for myself, my ultimate goal is to work in fine dining”.

Efe Onar, City College Southampton, studying Introduction to cookery and L2 Patisserie entered 2 categories, Pasta and The Mystery Box categories stated, “I am really enjoying the day and one day may aim is to go back to Turkey and open my own Fish & Chip shop”.
The day was a huge success, with lots of happy excited students filled with optimism and confidence, buzzing around the college between categories. It was a pleasure to see all the students encouraging each other and cheering each other on.

We had a great variety of judges showing their support and taking part across the competition.

Lex Bartlett-Woodnutt, Apprentice Manager, The Pig Group stated “There is a shortage of chefs throughout the hospitality industry, we as a group work with many schools and colleges to encourage students into hospitality.  This competition helps students to gain skills in pressure, time management etc. which gives them a feel of a real kitchen environment”.

Alistair Craig, Executive Chef, Careys Manor Hotel, stated “I feel it is important to support the industry whilst also supporting the students and showing them what is achievable”.

Ian Gibbs, Head Chef, The Riverside Coventry Arms, Wimborne says “These students are the future of the hospitality industry. Its good to create a bit of pressure to give them a feel of the industry whilst also an opportunity to gather good knowledge”.

Martin Dawkins, The Rustic Chef quoted “It's nice to see the students embracing different food styles including classic, fusion, wacky etc. this competition is a great experience for them”.

Phil Clark, Development Chef for Harvest stated that, “As a company, we want to encourage the students to enjoy the food, enjoy the cooking and gain as much experience as they can before they go out to the industry. The students are the future chefs, future buyers, and we want to help encourage more young people into the industry”.

South West Business Development Manager for Essential Cuisine and a multi-gold medal winning chef, Gary Kilminster commented “I believe culinary competitions are a massive part of any young chefs learning curve, they put the students under pressure, make them think outside of the box which they wouldn’t normally do within their studies and can help build confidence. To put yourself above the parapet and have your dishes securitised by professional experienced chefs shows determination and ambition, and I would like to say a massive well done on behalf of Essential Cuisine and personally to all the competitors and wish them all the very best ”.

With thanks to the sponsors:


Essential Cuisine

Koppert Cress

Gallo Rice
The organisers:

City College Southampton

Fareham College


Essential Cuisine
The front of house judges:

Patina Farnham, Novotel Hotel Southampton

Pedro Carvalho, Operations Manager at the Montagu Arms Hotel
Kitchen judges:

Ian Gibbs, Head Chef the Coventry Arms

Alistair Craig, Executive Chef Careys Manor

Andrew Mackenzie, Exclusive Hotels 

Phil Clark, Development Chef Harvest

Robin Dudley, Business Development Chef, Essential Cuisine 

Martin Dawkins, The Rustic Chef 

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