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Three up and coming chefs from Sussex Downs College, Eastbourne, made it to the semi-final of the Country Range Student Chef Challenge last week (9th February).

If reality TV competitions like The Great British Bake-Off and Hell’s Kitchen whet your appetite for competing under pressure, then The Country Range Chef Challenge is the real-life equivalent for budding student chefs, minus Gordon Ramsay of course. Sussex Downs College Level 2 Catering students Ben Addems, 31, Jacob Cranch, 18, and Lewis Wren, 17, made it through to the semi-final round at Loughborough College earlier this month, where they worked as a team to create a three-course meal around the theme of “healthy gourmet fine dining”.

Talking about the support from College staff, Ben says: “Christina Cavallari [Head of Hospitality] and Chef Ken Ellis have made sure we are able to practise our dishes at the College ahead of the competition. Chef Ken is the lead chef so he sorts everything out and is there for us all the time, mainly to calm us down if we try to over complicate certain elements of the dish!

“It's enjoyable trying to create dishes that are unique, flavour pairings you wouldn't normally think of and a varied but balanced meal that will hopefully complement each course as you progress.”

Sussex Downs College narrowly missed out on making it to the final eight which will take place in March at ScotHot, at the SECC Glasgow. Ben says: “The feedback from the judges [members of the Craft Guild of Chefs] was invaluable and they took the time to give us advice so we can try and better ourselves next time. They urged us to enter again next year as they would love to see how we have progressed. So, onto the next competition!”

Course leader Christina Cavallari enthuses: “Having three Level 2 students like Ben, Lewis and Jacob taking on Level 3 and Level 4 students from other Colleges - and coming so close to making it to the final - is a great achievement. They will only get better during their time here so it’s exciting to see what the next year will bring.”

2017 is the 23rd year of the Country Range Chef Challenge, attracting full-time hospitality and catering College students to compete.

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