Nottingham College Hospitality and Catering students got the chance to work alongside five finalists from the hit BBC 2 cooking show MasterChef: The Professionals last week (16th February) as part of a special restaurant takeover.

The students helped to prep, cook, plate and serve an impressive 8-course tasting menu which the professionals created especially for the event.

MasterChef: The Professionals star, Rikku Ò’Donnchü, who owns two successful restaurants in South Africa and has worked at Michelin-starred Nottingham restaurants including Hart’s, Merchants and Wheeler’s of St. James’s, said: “There’s a cry out from the industry for more ‘real’ chefs, so the aim of our visit was to share some of our experience, inspire, and hopefully increase their desire of becoming professional chefs.

“I was so impressed with the students’ attitudes and enthusiasm. Many of the modern techniques we used, like creating olive oil caviar using a technique called spherification, was completely new to them but they were all keen to learn and didn’t shy away from trying something out of their comfort zone.”

Zoe Simons, famous for her pastry skills on the latest series of the show, is now the Senior Innovation and Brand Development Chef for Waitrose. She said: “It is really important to me to go back to where it all started, in a training environment, where hopefully I can help to inspire and inform young people about the different opportunities and possibilities out there for them. From my own personal experience, I didn’t get this sort of opportunity at College, so it means a lot to me to get out there and speak to young people about the industry.

“I’ve got my dream job working for Waitrose because I love the interaction with people, engaging with food and the science behind it. It’s also a great feeling knowing that 1000s of people are eating food that I’ve helped to create. Hopefully our short visit will encourage students to just follow their dreams and go for it!”

Aspiring patisserie chef Candice Pryce, 18, from Gedling, said: “I got to work on the pastry section alongside Zoe which was brilliant. I remember watching her on the show and being so impressed with the way she plated her dishes, so it was so good to stand beside her and learn some of her techniques.

“Her dishes are really complex, using ingredients that you wouldn’t necessarily think to put together, like chocolate and truffles, but the combination really worked. That’s something I will take away from this experience; to be a bit more brave with my flavours and have the confidence to experiment with ingredients a little bit more.”

Working alongside Rikku and Zoe were former contestants Louisa Ellis, Wayne Sullivan and Mark Hadley. Their imaginative, modern menu included sticky beef cheek with nashi pear and blood risotto and a ‘sweet meets savoury’ fish course of roasted cod, smoked cauliflower, blue cheese, caviar and white chocolate.

In true MasterChef style, each dish was introduced to the diners by the chef before being served.

The Adams Restaurant, located in the historic Adams Building, in the Lace Market area of Nottingham, hosts regular themed evenings. See what’s coming up next on the website here: 

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