Congratulations to Level 3 NVQ Professional Cookery student Ben Fleming (22) from Bangor who recently competed in the South African Young Chef of the Year at Kingsway’s College, London. Ben’s culinary talents and skills gained him third place in the competition for his experimental dishes.

Ben was tasked with producing a starter, main course dessert in an intense three-hour cook-off. Each of the three courses had to contain at least one South African fruit.

Speaking about the competition Ben said, “I was entered into the competition by my lecturer who knew that I had the potential to excel. It was an amazing experience to travel to London, a city top-ranked in the world for fine dining, to compete against other talented and aspiring chefs. Thankfully, I remained calm in an environment of high pressure and I am very happy with how I performed.”

He added, “The training and high standard of teaching at South Eastern Regional College (SERC) helped prepare me for the competition. Studying at SERC has given me access to a state of the art, industry standard kitchen and equipment. I also draw a lot of inspiration from my lecturers Brian Magill and Thomas McCluney which is reflected in my style of cooking.”

“My education at SERC has inspired me to me to develop my own pop-up business, ‘Benn’s’ and I’m involved in SERC’s Entrepreneur Club in the hope of taking the business further as it is my ambition to open up my own restaurant one day.”

All three of Ben’s dishes were commended by the judges on the day for his innovative approach in the use of the South African fruits. Thomas McCluney, SERC Lecturer in Hospitality and Management said, “Ben should be extremely proud of himself. He scored top marks for his dessert using South African Williams pears, with the judges agreeing that it was the dessert of the competition. His starter consisted of watermelon and Granny Smith apples and a main course with plums.” 

Ben’s performance was so impressive that two of the judges, Petrus Madutlela, Head Chef of Michelin star restaurant The Poet at Matfield in Kent and Neleen Strauss, owner of High Timber Restaurant in London, both offered Ben work placements in their establishments should he wish to travel or work in London.

Ben said, “I am honoured to have been selected to gain experience working in these two amazing restaurants. This is an incredible opportunity to work amongst some of the best chefs in the business and I am excited for what’s to come.”

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