Future chefs from across the southeast competed in Springboard’s FutureChef Regional Final today, Friday 3 February, at West London College. The young chefs, who were all secondary school students, had just 90 minutes to create their masterpieces twice, which included a main and dessert course. The duplication was so that the four industry chef judges could sample both courses with a pristine version of their delicate culinary art left to admire. In November 2022, West London College hosted the Springboard FutureChef South East and London regional heats.
Chef Andrew Aston described what makes a winner: “Passion, thinking outside of the box and clean flavours. Taste is more important than presentation because if your food tastes good but looks bad, you still have the freedom to fix up the presentation. However, when the presentation is good but the taste is unappealing then that’s all you get.”
Chef Paul Bates said the traits he was looking for in a winner were: “Somebody that is well organised and approaches their work systematically. Also having flair because being different and standing out are great qualities. And taste, it’s essential to taste test their food as they go along.”
The contestants described the competition experience from their point of view.
On the day overall winner Pippa Cooper from Priory School in Lewes said she found the day: “Very exciting, hard but exciting.” Pippa made beetroot-infused tortelloni served with fondant butternut squash and chicken broth, and a nutty shortcrust caramelised apple tart with cream. On winning she said: “It feels very good, I was very surprised, I wasn’t really sure I would win.”
Ben Northeast from Steyning Grammar School in West Sussex said: “Working in an industrial kitchen really helped me see what it is like to be in a competitive environment.”
Ben made pork tenderloins with a bed of butternut squash puree and bok choy and ginger lime sauce. He said: “I picked these two dishes because they are a mix of Asian and English cuisines.”
Lois Bulla from Claire’s Court School in Maidenhead said: “It was a bit stressful with the timing but overall very exciting.” Lois made fried yam with Ghanaian Palava sauce and Pineapple upside down cake.
Roisie Meany from Gordon’s School near Woking in Surrey said: “It was really good to actually work in a professional kitchen.” Roisie made fish and chips and creme brulee. Roisie said: “Fish and chips are a very familiar dish in my family, and creme brulee tastes really good.”
Henri Deane, also from Gordon’s School said: “It was stressful but very fun working together with my peers.” Henri made open lasagne with parmesan cheese, poppy seed shortbread and lemon posset.
Cameron Shoulders from Shoreham Academy in Shoreham-by-Sea said: “I really enjoyed it, plus I learned a lot, which will help me in the future.” Cameron made chicken tikka masala, which he chose because it is a staple in his household and his family has it regularly.
Pippa Cooper will now go through to the national final of the Springboard FutureChef competition on 13 March 2023.