Young people

Youngsters cook up a storm at Rotary Young Chef National Finals 2023

Youngsters cook up a storm at Rotary Young Chef National Finals 2023

The competition saw six budding chefs aim to impress a panel of esteemed cooks with their menus.

Six aspiring chefs aged 14-16 recently competed in the national final of Rotary Young Chef 2023.

Taking place at St Benedict’s High School in Alcester, Warwickshire, the chefs had two hours to cook a three course menu for the judges and there was some truly delicious food on display.

14-year-old Eimhear McGrath, a student from Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Penrith, Cumbria, was chosen as the winner of Rotary Young Chef 2023 after wowing the judges with her menu of seared scallop, Moroccan spiced venison and ginger poached pears.

Eimhear’s prize was a two-day trip to the Toscana Saporita Estate in Tuscany, Italy, which includes cookery classes to learn the secrets of regional Italian cooking.

We had 6 young competitors whose quality of their menus were excellent, all of which were winners for coming this far in the competition.”

Eimhear wasn’t the only one who impressed though, as 16-year-old Sarah Smart from Mackie Academy in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, grabbed second place with her menu of smoked haddock fishcakes, venison and black forest sorbet.

The ‘Dish of the Day’ award went to 15-year-old Poppy Mackay from King Alfred’s School in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, who produced a delicious menu of smoked salmon and ravioli, panfried duck breast and rasberry créme brûlée.

All six participants received certificates for taking part and everyone’s food was available to view for families and other visitors.

The final was judged by experienced chefs Mark Williams, Walter Zanre and Richard Walker, who were incredibly impressed by the culinary skills on display.

Many heats and regional finals had taken place months before the national final, with Rotary clubs across the county bringing hundreds of young chefs across the country together to show their skills.

Students enter the competition organised by the local Rotary club through their school, college or youth organisation

(From left to right) Eimhear McGrath, Poppy Mackay and Sarah Smart with their trophies and certificates.

The competition was, once again, sponsored by Filippo Berio, the UK’s most popular olive oil brand who also organised the two-day trip to Tuscany.

The company said before the event: “We are delighted to have supported Rotary’s Young Chef for the past ten years, encouraging the next generation of cooks to make the most of simple healthy ingredients.

“Every year, we are inspired by the talents, creativity and commitment to the craft of our competitors.”

Peter Senior, organiser of Rotary Young Chef, commented: “The National Final for Young Chef was a very successful competition. We must thank Andy Smith, Louise Smith and Martin Tandy for their help in making the competition a success.

“Also, we must thank Filippo Berio for their 14-year sponsorship along with their generosity as well as the 3 judges.

“We had 6 young competitors whose quality of their menus were excellent, all of which were winners for coming this far in the competition.

You can find out more about Young Chef and Rotary’s other youth competitions on our website.

Winning Menus

Eimhear McGrath (Sponsored by Rotary Penrith)

Starter: Seared solway scallop on green pea puree with a locally sourced ham crisp, black pudding and pea shoots.

Main Course: Moroccan spiced venison loin served with cauliflower purée, crumbed romanesco, spiced beetroot and braised shallots.

Dessert: Ginger poached pears with lime mascarpone, apple reduction and a cranberry and pistachio crumb.

Sarah Smart (Sponsored by Rotary Club of Stonehaven)

Starter: Smoked haddock fishcakes seared with dressed leaves and a lemon mayo.

Main Course: Venison with sweet potato mash, broccoli and stilton puree, kale and mushrooms and a red wine and port sauce.

Dessert: Black forest sorbet with mini meringues, brownie, granola and a berry sauce.

Poppy Mackay (Sponsored by Rotary Burnham-on-Sea)

Starter: Smoked salmon & spicy red pepper ravioli.

Main Course: Panfried duck breast with spiced orange and cranberry sauce served with pomme purée, creamed cabbage and celeriac.

Dessert: Rasberry créme brûlée served with lemon shortbread.