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Regional heat of prestigious catering competition takes place

Young chefs and front of house competitors across the south descended on Eastleigh College to take part in the southern regional heat of the Major Series 2020.

This prestigious national competition, which has been estalished for over 20 years, is organised by fine stocks and sauces specialist, Major International, in conjunction with the Craft Guild of Chefs. Supported by City & Guilds, it provides young chefs with the opportunity to challenge themselves and showcase their skills in a range of classes including petit fours, afternoon tea, street food, pasta-making and restaurant skills.

Hospitality and catering students from Eastleigh College were joined by those from Southampton City, Havant & South Downs and Highbury colleges, as well as young chefs from the army catering corps based at Worthy Down. Two soldiers travelled from Germany to take part.

Paul Saunders, Marketing Director with Major International, said: “The Major Series is always a fantastic competition, and it continues to go from strength to strength. It’s rewarding to see the talent and passion of the next generation of chefs. For some it is a stepping stone to international recognition, with past winners having the opportunity to compete to go on to secure places in the British Culinary Team.”

Fifty competitors took part in nine different classes including street food, petit fours, afternoon tea, terrine and starter, pasta making and hot chicken challenges. Those who reached appropriate criteria covering menu planning, use of flavour, workmanship and plating techniques were awarded. In addition a tenth restaurant skills class awarded students meeting criteria for table setting, critical wine selection and cocktail making.

Eastleigh College students gained 6 bronzes, 4 silvers, 5 golds and a Merit. Emily King, a level 3 student, won a gold medal in the Street Food class with her fajita with a sweet onion ketchup and sour cream dressing. She said: “I chose to compete in Street Food as I wanted to do something a little bit different. We do some great competitions, but this is the first time I’ve won a gold. It’s great to be able to cook for and get feedback from top chefs, and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Lance Corporal Dunn, was the overall winner of the Hot Chicken Challenge and will go on to compete in the national final at the Hotel Olympia in London next year.

The judging panel included renowned executive and head chefs from exclusive hotels and restaurants including Chewton Glen’s Luke Matthews, Lainston House’s Andrew McKenzie, Adam Lestrelle from South London’s Roehampton Club, Alistair Craig from Careys Manor, The Chesil Rectory’s Damien Brown and The Pig Group’s James Golding. Also judging were apprenticeship coordinator with Lime Wood Hotel, Lex Bartlett-Woodmatt and representatives from Major International and the Craft Guild of Chefs.

Luke Matthews, Executive Head Chef with Chewton Glen, said: “I was impressed. The standard of dishes presented was very good, however, the winner presented a unique idea combining chicken with a crouton crust, and executed it extremely well. For me it’s primarily about the execution.”

Chairman of judges for the Craft Guild of Chefs, Wayne Harris, added: “The competition is a great opportunity for up and coming chefs to get a taste of the competition arena, giving them the chance to compete against their peers and use products they’ll come into contact with in the future.”

Eastleigh College catering lecturer, Gregg Cheeseman, concluded: “It was a great event that provided our young chefs with fabulous opportunities. We’re extremely proud they gained so many awards, but more importantly were able to rise to the challenge of demonstrating their ideas and skills and put themselves under the type of pressure they’ll be working under once they are qualified.”