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Junior chefs cook against the clock


Peterborough Junior Chef winner Claire Wheeler (centre), with Ijeoma Okonkwo, second, and Aaron Johnston, third. They are with celebrity chefs Roy Macfarlaine and Geoff Hayward, and Andrew Gillard of Peterborough Regional College and Linda Steele of Greater Peterborough Chamber

Teenage finalists in the Peterborough Junior Chef competition tasted all the drama of cooking to a tight deadline in a busy restaurant kitchen.

The ten 14 to 16 years olds had only two hours to cook and serve a meal for three, using their own recipes and ingredients costing no more than 15.


The contest took place at the Parcs Restaurant at Peterborough Regional College, where two celebrity chefs and a panel of diners awarded marks for taste, presentation, cookery skills and hygiene.

First prize went to 15 year old Stamford High School pupil Claire Wheeler, who created a mouth-watering menu of pork fillet, spinach, feta cheese and lemon in puff pastry, with a tomato and red onion salad, followed by lemon syllabub and almond biscuits.

"It was quite nerve wracking, but it was fun and a good experience," said Claire, who won a 'pasta factory' machine, a VIP lunch at London's exclusive Four Seasons restaurant, and a tour with the Association Culinaire Francaise to see top chefs at work. Her school received a crystal bowl trophy to display for a year and 250 sponsored by GBS Catering and Premier Kitchens.

15 year old Ijeoma Okonkwo from Kings School, Peterborough, took second place with her chicken main course and dessert of carib and nut cake with orange sauce. She won a trophy and a set of knives donated by Euro Catering.

Third prize, a stainless steel wok, went to 14 year old Aaron Johnston of Stanground College, who wants to work as a chef. He created a bacon and mushroom pasta bake and a tropical fruit salad in meringue nests.

All ten finalists won cookery books, a meal out at a local restaurant, a gift voucher, an apron, a calculator and pen, and the opportunity to visit Aramark's busiest kitchens in London.

The seven runners up were Annika Bench and Fiona Bichan from Stamford High School, Emily Brown, Jenny Castle and Hannah Matthews from Kings School, Carole Francis of Jack Hunt School and David Gedge of St Guthlac School.

"They were all brilliant," said Geoff Hayward, a former student of Peterborough Regional College who now works as a TV chef. "They were very professional in the way they organised their work schedule."

His fellow judge Roy Macfarlaine, head chef at the Cleyhall Hotel at Spalding and 1999 Perrier Chef of the Year, praised Greater Peterborough Chamber for organising the Peterborough Junior Chef competition. "It gets young people interested in our trade. They've got to have a real love of food and not mind giving up part of their social life. They should give it a try for a while and see, because the rewards are there."

Over 60 young people entered the competition, which was open to all Year 10 and 11 pupils at schools in the greater Peterborough area. Peterborough Junior Chef is run each year by the Hospitality and Leisure Sector of the Greater Peterborough Chamber to demonstrate the benefits of working in the industry.

October 2000

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