Fifteen-year-old Grace Burrows, from Dungannon, will be hoping to have the right recipe and ingredients for success when she represents Northern Ireland at next month’s national final of the FutureChef 2019 competition in London.
Grace, a pupil of Drumglass High School who is studying food and nutrition among other courses at the 600 pupil school, cooked her way to the final by wowing the expert judging panel chaired by top chef Roger Moynihan of the hugely successful Mourne Seafood Cookery School in Belfast in the Northern Ireland hotly contested heat at the end of January.
The challenge Grace and the other five local participants faced in the regional final was to cook a two-course meal for two people – a hot main course with a hot or cold dessert – to an exacting budget of up to £10. She pipped the other competitors to reach the National Final of FutureChef, an imaginative competition organised by the Springboard charity.
The talented Dungannon teen served the panel her favourite meal – locally- sourced Hake served with crispy Parma ham, peas a la francaise and creamed potatoes, and a dessert of chocolate brownie with pistachio nuts, orange segments and crème fraiche. She will be aiming to tickle the taste buds of judges again in the National Final on March 18.
A justifiably jubilant Grace said: “I was completely shocked and surprised to have won and I’m so excited to be taking part in the National Final!”
She’d be interested in a career as a chef and on following in the footsteps of Northern Ireland Michelin female chefs such as Danni Barry, now head chef at Balloo House in Killinchy, and Clare Smyth, the chef/owner of the acclaimed Core Restaurant in London, who holds three Michelin stars.
“I’ve been inspired by the achievements of Danni and Claire. It’s great to see them winning Michelin stars and achieving success here and abroad,” adds Grace.
Roger Moynihan, praising Grace and the other entrants in the local regional heat, continued: “The quality of dishes in the regional competition were exceptional. I’ve seen really some high standards; the competition seems to get better every year.
“All finalists produced some fantastic dishes, congratulations to Grace who achieved her potential today by serving up a well-balanced and nutritional meal.”
Mourne Seafood Cookery School in Castle Street, an initiative by restaurateur Bob McCoubrey and chef Andy Rea, was the first to open in the city.
The Northern Ireland heat took place in Belfast Metropolitan College and was part of a UK initiative to encourage more young people to consider careers as a chef. There’s currently a chronic shortage of chefs, especially in Ireland.
The national final in London’s Westway Kingsway College will see Grace having to win over a panel of hospitality industry experts and celebrity chefs. She’ll be required to cook a two-course meal from a basket of ingredients provided. She will be among 12 teenage finalists at the event.
Springboard’s FutureChef directly relates to the national curriculum and gives young people a life skill. It aims to tackle the severe skills shortage facing hospitality by inspiring 12-16 year olds to develop their cooking skills and understanding of nutrition.
Springboard Northern Ireland manager Michele McCreary explains: “Springboard’s FutureChef was developed as a result of research into young people’s ideas about the hospitality industry.
“Research revealed that young people really admire high-profile celebrity chefs, yet surprisingly few genuinely consider a career as a chef!
“Springboard’s FutureChef provides teachers and young people with a wonderful insight into the wealth of career opportunities that the hospitality sector has to offer,” adds Michele
FutureChef features a four stage national competition, annually involving over 8,000 participants, Michele explains. “It also includes classroom resources, chef demonstrations and skills challenges, and forms a link between schools and hospitality employers.
“It aims to develop culinary skills, educate about food provenance, health and safety and food hygiene and informs about entry routes to worthwhile careers in hospitality.
“The initiative encourages the next generation of young chefs and, of course, through its four stage national competition, each year crowns one talented participant as the Springboard’s FutureChef winner!”
The Springboard charity helps young, the unemployed and those facing barriers to work into sustainable employment in the hospitality, leisure and tourism industry by providing a range of opportunities for sustainable employment, or vibrant careers in the industry.
It does this by providing free specialist careers information; taster work experience opportunities; development programmes to help maximise the chances of obtaining sustainable employment; pre-employment and mentoring programmes; and educational teaching resources, information, support and student activities to teachers in schools and colleges
“What we are doing is to equip young people in particular with the knowledge and skills they need to achieve their potential,” adds Michele.
“Springboard also works closely with the industry to help attract more talent and address skills shortages. In doing so, it has the support of over 180 different industry establishments and suppliers.”
The important contribution of FutureChef is recognised by the industry and has attracted sponsorships from the Worshipful Company of Cooks, Nestle, Sodexo, BaxterStorey, Compass, and the Hilton and Marriott hotel chains.