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Young chefs surprise and delight expert judges in the college's annual Junior MasterChef competition

Warrington & Vale Royal College was delighted to host pupils from Warrington, Wigan, Winsford and beyond for their annual Junior MasterChef Competition. The final cook-off was held at the college’s award-winning Buckley’s Restaurant, where young culinary talents from six schools from across the North West showcased their amazing skills and creativity.

This competition is open to year 9 and 10 pupils every year, where they are asked to design and submit a delicious menu in teams of two that is then presented to our expert tutors, who choose which dishes they would like to see cooked in the college’s professional kitchens. This year, the competition saw a record number of entries, with shortlisted pupils from Culcheth High School, Hawkley Hall High School, Lowton High School, Weaverham High School and Winsford Academy claiming their place in the final cook-off.

As an extra challenge, the college asked all entrants to consider ideas of sustainability when designing their menus. These brilliant young chefs rose to the challenge by using fresh, locally sourced ingredients to create their delicious dishes. Entrants went above and beyond, sourcing fresh herbs from their gardens, purchasing vegetables from local allotments and, in the case of Benjamin Witherington and Luke Connor Ashton from Culcheth High School, even catching their own mackerel to use in their dish. By choosing local produce, they not only promoted healthier eating but also reduced their carbon footprint and supported businesses close to home.

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This year’s competition was judged by Nigel Smith from Chef Patisserie and Jack Vance, a former hospitality & catering student from the college who is now a Sous Chef at The Little Manor in Thelwall. Invited to sample the food and judge the young chefs’ performance in the kitchens, the expert judges were blown away by the talent and dedication on display. Nigel said:

“It is an absolute pleasure to be judging this year’s Junior MasterChef Competition. We have seen amazing creations from equally amazing young chefs. I hope that using the college’s outstanding facilities and hearing feedback from such passionate tutors at the college has given these pupils an experience they won’t forget.”

After 90 minutes of cooking from the finalists, the judges were presented with a feast of creative fayre, including a tasty vegan calzone, a rich sticky toffee cupcake topped with Italian meringue, a delicate vegetable risotto and fresh wild berry cake. After an intense period of difficult deliberation, the judges came to their decision, and Beth Mutton and Polly Johnson from Weaverham High School were awarded 1st place and given this year’s top prize of £100 in high street vouchers.

Beth and Polly’s menu was shortlisted from 25 other menus to go through to the final, due to the pupils’ ambitious dishes which included homemade noodles and flatbread to accompany a fragrant Thai green chicken curry, made with fresh chicken and eggs from Polly’s family farm. Their menu responded perfectly to the brief’s requirement to focus on locally sourced produce while also getting top marks for flavour.

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This year, the judges also decided that one other team would receive a special prize to recognise the high calibre of their work. Isabella Cundliffe-Bolton and Myleigh-Anne Walker-Coke, year 9 pupils from Lowton Church of England High School, were the recipients of the Chef’s Recognition Award for their indulgent lasagne and decadent millionaire’s shortbread. These young chefs can now look forward to enjoying a bespoke afternoon tea service for themselves and their family, generously provided by Chef Patisserie.

The college would like to extend its gratitude to all the talented entrants and their teachers who made this fantastic event possible and congratulate all finalists for their exceptional efforts.

Feeling inspired by these exceptional young chefs? Applications are still open for September 2023.

Click here to discover our Hospitality & Catering Courses
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This year's talented finalists, our expert judges Nigel and Jack, and Vice Principle Andy Williams.

A huge well done to all of this year's talented entrants:

Isabel Heywood & Chloe Sinclaire, Winsford Academy, Year 10.*

Lexie Gooley & Jasmine Gilbert, Winsford Academy, Year 10.

Rebecca McDermott & Jess Teasdale, Weaverham High School, Year 9.

Charlotte Westgate & Izzy Prior, Weaverham High School, Year 10.

Beth Mutton & Polly Johnson, Weaverham High School, Year 10.*

Isabel Collins & Lili Benova, Great Sankey High School, Year 10.

Alfie Williams & Jonah B, Culcheth High School, Year 9.

Benjamin Witherington & Luke Connor Ashton, Culcheth High School, Year 9.*

Ella Rose Burges & Isabella Kniverton, Culcheth High School, Year 9.

Emily Malloney & Lola Wallace, Culcheth High School, Year 9.

Esme Smith & Gemma Ward, Culcheth High School, Year 9.

Mia Kennedy & Will Littler, Culcheth High School, Year 9.

Tom Guzewicz & Samson Barker, Culcheth High School, Year 9.

Will Guy & Hakan Atas, Culcheth High School, Year 9.

Will Johnson & Harry Finchman, Culcheth High School, Year 9.*

Tyler & Lewis, Culcheth High School, Year 9.

Isabelle Cundliffe-Bolton & Myleigh-Anne Walker Coke, Lowton C of E High School, Year 9.

Rowan Shaw & Amelia Rodgers, Lowton C of E High School, Year 9.

Imogen Ainscough & Teagan McDermott, Hawkley Hall, Year 9.