Primary schools in Northern Ireland and Donegal are being encouraged to enter the annual Mount Charles Big School Cook Off Competition.
Open to pupils aged between 11 and 14, the competition, which is run in association with SuperValu, is being supported by top chefs Ian Orr, Noel McMeel, Niall McKenna, Danni Barry, Andy Rea and Michael Deane.
The pupils will be in teams of two and are challenged to submit a main course recipe idea that feeds two, focusing on locally sourced ingredients that can be bought on a £10 budget or euro equivalent.
“This competition is first and foremost an exercise in addressing the serious skills gap in the food service industry in Northern Ireland, by encouraging the next generation of potential young chefs to learn about food provenance and get cooking,” says Caitriona Lennox, Mount Charles’ business development manager. “We want to support children with a passion for cooking and give them an insight into the hospitality industry. We’re hoping it will inspire them to consider a career in foodservice and we’ll do what we can to support their future training and skills development.
“Teacher feedback has been amazing, and the competition is growing year on year,” says Lennox. “Schools are taking part because of the experience it offers the pupils, as well as the great prizes on offer and the kudos of winning the biggest and most prestigious cooking competition in the schools’ calendar.”
For the competition, one recipe per county will be shortlisted on Friday 22nd of November. The winning team from each county will progress to cook their recipe for an esteemed panel of judges at the grand finale of the competition next March, in Belfast Met’s Titanic Quarter Campus. County finalists will also be invited to perform a cookery demonstration of their dish, at their local SuperValu store in January, ahead of the final.“SuperValu is delighted to be involved once again in this great initiative giving our top young foodies a chance to showcase their talents,” says Brendan Gallen, head of marketing at SuperValu. “Good luck to everyone entering and we look forward to welcoming the regional finalists to their local SuperValu for live demos next year.”
“We are delighted to lend our support to this initiative, it’s our duty to connect and do more within hospitality and show the next generation of catering professionals how rewarding this industry can be,” adds Noel McMeel, executive head chef of Lough Erne Resort. “We’re encouraging pupils aged between 11 and 14 to go to their teachers and tell them you want to be involved. Cooking for the judges in the grand final will also be a wonderful experience and could open the doors to a fantastic future in catering.”
This year teams are asked to submit their recipe ideas by uploading a word document or a video to bigschoolcookoff.co.uk detailing their recipe choice, locality and seasonality of their ingredients and how they researched and tested their dish.
Full competition terms and conditions can be found at bigschoolcookoff.co.uk