On February 9th 2022, 21 Culinary Arts & Hospitality students ranging from Level 1 to Level 3 and Apprentices, prepared to take on the first round of Passion to Inspire, a culinary competition for college students.
Working in teams of 3, the students had spent time over the previous weeks preparing and perfecting a two-course menu, paired with wine and a cocktail to compliment the dishes. On the day of the competition, the teams had to recreate their dishes, set-up front of house and impress the judges with their catering and hospitality skills while working cohesively as a team, communicating between the production kitchen and front of house to ensure a seamless delivery.
Guest judges, Head Chef, Sam Carter and Sommelier, Piers Gibson Birch from Restaurant 22, Executive Chef, Sebastian Mansfield from Corpus Christi College and Executive Chef, Lee Cooper from Bedford Lodge were present throughout the day observing the teams as they worked in the production kitchen and prepared front of house for service. As if that wasn’t enough pressure, approximately one hour into preparation, the teams were thrown a skills test – make poached eggs on toast and bring it to the pass in 10 minutes!
The atmosphere was intense, with each team determined to do their absolute best for the judging at midday. There was clear sense of focus and drive in the Seasons restaurant, along with a hint of anxiety at the task ahead. While the chefs prepared the dishes, the front of house team worked on creating the most appealing dining space with crystal clear glasses, polished cutlery, and a clearly presented menu for their guests. Piers judged the cocktail making and wine pairing, while Sam, Sebastian and Lee talked to the chefs about their choice of dish and methods used.
3 hours of preparation, and ongoing judging, flew by and, in the 30 minutes approaching service, the intensity in the kitchen increased two-fold as the teams raced to plate up.
The restaurant started to fill with guests and the judges took their positions at the tasting table and, one-by-one, the teams moved into action. The front of house member of each team welcomed their guests, offering refreshments before communicating with their chefs that they were ready for service. The mains were brought to the pass and service began.
The restaurant came alive with happy diners, attentive front of house staff and beautifully presented plates of food. As the plates were emptied, the students were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief, but there was the small matter of waiting for the judges feedback and ultimately, the announcement of the winners.
During the feedback the judges said, “The standard of cooking has been outstanding. We are impressed with the thought that has gone into producing these menus and the quality of the dishes plated. Choosing a winner has been very difficult. Everyone should be very proud.”
The results were revealed, and Team 7, made up of Level 2 students, Charlie King, Jonathan Corney, and Madison Bayford were announced as winners of the Cambridge Regional College A Passion to Inspire heats. The team will now progress to the East of England finals in April 2022 where they will compete against the winners of other colleges in the region.
A Passion to Inspire’, founded by Murray Chapman, is a non-profit making, voluntary initiative, initially developed to bring education and industry closer together – to help and support’ the future of tomorrow today’. The initial format was a competition… but with a fun and supportive element, to nurture, encourage and support students, and give them belief in, and a passion for, their chosen career.
A Passion to Inspire competitors:
Team 1 – Team 1: Magnus McMahon, Luke Graham, Xandr King (Level 1)
Team 2: Joshua Clark, Shaun Gray, Isobel Stephenson (Level 1)
Team 3: Kirsten Dario, Emily Brasnett, Tilly Read (Level 1)
Team 4: Cavan Ronan, Kyle Mutch (apprentices)
Team 5: Mollie Sobie, Konstantin Roberts, Aimee Hitchins (Level 3)
Team 6: Daniel Ryder, Harvey Foster, Giorgio Filigno (Level 3)
Team 7: Charlie King, Jonathan Corney, Madison Bayford (Level 2).