Team SRC serve up the medals

Students from Southern Regional College joined renowned hospitality, foodservice and retail experts at this year’s heavily anticipated IFEX trade event. Northern Ireland’s premiere showcase for the food, drink, hospitality and retail industry. The event saw competitions taking across senior and junior divisions to find the best in class in foodservices plus inspiration from all the latest trends within food and service industry. Students from the College served up nine medals across a range of competition areas including seafood, risotto, poultry and duck.

To prepare for the competition students trained outside class time alongside their professional chef lecturers and mentors in the weeks leading up to the competition. To be successful students were required to produce two servings of their dish within a short period of time, from as little as 40 minutes. The only competition prep students were allowed to undertake in advance of the competition day was peeling of vegetables, no chopping was permitted under tight competition rules. This meant students were feeling the heat in the kitchen, and not just from the boiling pots and pans!

Students taking part in the competition ranged from Level 2 Traineeship and Level 2 Apprenticeship Professional Chefs, Level 2 Vocational Catering, Level 3 Day release and Level 3 Apprenticeship Professional Chefs students.

Students scooping up the medals include:

Annabelle HughesGold Medal – Risotto Chef of the Year NI
TJ Cashel O’FarrellGold Medal – Culinary Ability Award
Ross SmythSilver Medal – Junior Duck
Darragh ByrneSilver Medal – Young Seafood Chef of the Year / Best in Class
Sophie KeenanSilver Medal – Contemporary Hot Starter
Rory KavanaghSilver Medal – Junior Poultry
Ben WebberBronze Medal – Junior Duck
Thomas McCrinkBronze Medal – Contemporary Dessert
Sam ThompsonBronze Medal – Junior Poultry

A special mention goes to Annabelle Hughes. No stranger to professional competitions, having been a finalist in last year’s WorldSkills UK competition, Annabelle upped her game to take the gold medal and title “Risotto Chef of the Year NI”. Annabelle will progress to represent Ireland in the “Gallo Risotto Chef of the Year” in June. Speaking on her competition success to date, Annabelle said,

“I enjoy competing in cookery competitions because I learn so many things from participating in them. The IFEX competition has been a wonderful experience – I can practice specific skills and receive constructive feedback on my cooking techniques and the food I make. My dish for IFEX was a fennel, cured trout, pickled cucumber and citrus risotto dish. I choose this specific dish because the flavour of fennel and trout is a nice addition in a rich risotto. The ingredients really come together to create a risotto that I really enjoy and thankfully the judges did too.”

Fellow gold medallist is 16-year-old TJ Cashel O’Farrell. TJ originally came to the College having been introduced to the Professional Chef programme, following the Schools Partnership Programme. This programme gives secondary school students a taster of future career opportunities at their local Further Education College. TJ picked up a gold medal in the Culinary Ability section, with his dish of cod with fried mussels in a white wine sauce with sea herbs and potatoes

Fellow student Darragh Byrne picked up the title of IFEX NI Young Seafood Chef of the Year, sponsored by Keenan Seafood, alongside a silver medal. A well-deserved accolade for this aspiring young chef.

Commenting on students’ success, mentor Lynette McMath commented:

“We are so proud of the student’s achievements within the College. The students displayed exceptional attributes through their commitment, dedication, and performance at the competition. They should be very proud of their accomplishments; this will enhance their skills and employment prospects.”

Michelle Moore, Curriculum Area Manager for Hospitality & Tourism, further commented:

“Our success this year in IFEX has been outstanding across our two campuses Newry and Portadown for Culinary Arts. We were delighted that both Level 2 Traineeship and Level 2 Apprenticeship Professional Chefs, Level 2 Vocational Catering, Level 3 Day release and Level 3 Apprenticeship Professional Chefs were all successful.

To achieve 9 medals, with 2 best in class, is a testimony to their chef mentors who all went the extra mile to prepare for the competitions. We are also delighted that Annabelle, will go on to represent Ireland in the Gallo Risotto Chef of the Year Competition in London in June. We hope to build on this success by entering students into the World Skills competitions this year.”