From education to employment

Lecturers Banging the Competition Drum as the Student Chef Challenge Officially Opens for Entries

With the new college year underway and the Country Range Student Chef Challenge officially open for entries, star lecturer chefs Annmarie Farr and Darren Creed are banging the competition drum and encouraging more catering colleges and students to sign up. 

One of the most prestigious competitions in the student catering calendar, the Country Range Student Chef Challenge provides full-time hospitality and catering college students with the perfect platform to improve their cooking skills, knowledge and technique, while developing real life experience under intense pressure and competition situations.    

Annmarie Farr, lecturer of the winning team from Ayrshire College in 2017, explained the benefits that the challenge offers:

“It’s incredible just how much the students grow from competing in the Country Range Student Chef challenge.  It’s not just their skills, work ethic and technique that improves but the confidence and teamwork, which is developed through competing as a threesome, is amazing.” 

Now in its 24th year, the Student Chef Challenge is also a fantastic opportunity for students gain real employment in professional kitchens, which was highlighted by 2016 winner Emily Bucknall recently gaining a job at Sat Bains Michelin-starred restaurant.

Emily’s lecturer and Loughborough College tutor Darren Creed commented:

“For the students who have that passion to go as far as they can in food, the Student Chef Challenge opens many doors.  The competition is incredibly relevant and fantastic for student’s CV’s as it tests key skills they will need to make it in a kitchen and succeed. Emily was initially quite a shy student but after winning in 2016 she was transformed and showed she had the skills, confidence and the CV to turn her trial at Sat’s into a full-time job.” 

Darren explains how the Student Chef Challenge also benefits tutors and colleges as well: 

“While the development of the students is obviously the most important aspect of the challenge, the regional and national press we have received since winning has provided a fantastic platform for us to shout about our talented hospitality department and recruit the next generation of student chefs. Before our win in 2016, nobody knew Loughborough did hospitality but that has all changed and we are now well and truly on the culinary map!”

Annmarie Farr, agreed:

“Winning has generated positive publicity for the college and has helped us develop a reputation as a top catering college in Scotland. With competition fierce for students, this free promotion provides huge value in enrolling new students and helps ensure the hospitality industry in Scotland is in good hands.”

The Country Range Student Chef Challenge 2018

  • The challenge requires teams of three students to develop a three-course, three-cover menu demonstrating their own unique interpretation of this year’s ‘Around the World in Three Spices’ theme.
  • The teams have a maximum budget of £15 worth of ingredients for all three covers and a different fresh or ground spice (single or bespoke blend) must be used in each of the courses. 
  • The recipes need to be tried and tested to ensure students are able to prepare, cook and present the full menu within a 90-minute period.
  • Details of each course including full recipes, methodology showing menu development and understanding of the theme plus full costings and images must be submitted by the 30th November 2017 for the paper judging stage.
  • Lecturers can submit and complete the full team entries via
     or can download the PDF entry form and send it to the freepost address or email it to [email protected]
  • Based on the results of the paper judging, Live Regional Heats will take place at easily-accessible catering colleges between the 22nd January – Friday 8th February 2018.
  • The Live Grand Final will take place on Wednesday 7th March 2018 between 11:00am – 12:30pm in front of an exhibition audience at Hotelympia 2018 – the UK’s largest foodservice and hospitality event.
  • In addition to taking home the much-coveted title, the three victorious students will each win a bespoke set of three Flint & Flame knives and a trip to the 2018 Universal Cookery & Food Festival, Westlands in September 2018.  Here they will be guided throughout the day by various Craft Guild of Chefs’ leading chefs & ambassadors and they will be treated to one night’s accommodation and dinner at Michelin starred restaurant Simpsons in Kenilworth.
  • The lecturer of the winning team will also be presented with a specially selected knife set plus the winning college will receive a personalised PR package to maximise regional and industry publicity around the victory.

The Judging Criteria

The Craft Guild of Chef judges, headed by Chris Basten, provide detailed feedback to all the entrants and will be looking for the following:

  • Clearly defined aromas, textures and flavours that complement each other within each dish
  • Knowledge and understanding of cooking methods and technique to extract maximum flavour from the ingredient list.
  • Practical culinary skills such as boning and filleting
  • A well-balanced menu with the three courses complementing each other
  • Beautiful looking dishes presented in a modern style
  • Minimal waste from the ingredients chosen
  • In the practical stages of the Challenge, judges will also mark the students team work skills and teams will also be expected to show awareness and understanding of hygiene and food safety within their working methods.

About Country Range: With 25 years of heritage servicing the UK’s innovative foodservice sector, Country Range is the leading independent foodservice brand and now offers over 850 products, all developed exclusively for professional caterers. Covering grocery, chilled, frozen and non-food, Country Range is widely recognised by caterers as a trusted and reliable brand delivering consistent quality and value for money without compromising on taste and flavour. The brand is developed and produced by the Country Range Group and is distributed exclusively by the 13 independent wholesalers that make up the Group.

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