The first graduates from the Next Level programme Junior Chefs’ Academy joined new graduates from the foundation programme for a five star celebration event at Lough Erne Resort Enniskillen organised by People 1st, the sector skills council for hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism.
Noel McMeel, executive head chef at Lough Erne Resort, gave the 160 strong audience a masterclass on how to prepare lobster, seabream and salted squid followed by a white chocolate and Baileys parfait.
Six Junior Chefs’ teams from each of the regional colleges took part in a hotly contested cook-in preparing medallions of Ulster pork fillet with five minute peppered plum chutney, crispy bacon mash, wilted savoy greens, and pan gravy.
The judges, who included Noel McMeel and Sean Owens from Gardiners Restaurant , were greatly impressed by the cookery skills on display across all teams and named Southern Regional College as the overall winners.
A keen supporter of Junior Chefs’ Academy since its introduction to Northern Ireland in 2009, Noel McMeel congratulated all the graduates on their success. Encouraging them to consider a career in the industry, he said:
“You’ve had an outstanding opportunity to see first-hand the skills and qualities required to be a professional chef. Working alongside your college lecturers and guest chefs every Saturday morning throughout the ten week programme, you have demonstrated that you have the passion and enthusiasm this industry requires.”
Congratulating all the graduates, Roisin McKee of People 1st, said:
“Junior Chefs’ Academy is an industry-led programme which aims to be a stepping stone to a career in this vibrant and growing industry and we hope you will consider taking the Professional Chef Diploma which is available at all regional colleges.”
The Junior Chefs’ Academy Next Level programme is an opportunity for young people aged 12-16 who have already completed the foundation Junior Chef Academy course to undertake a progression course to build on their skills and repertoire of dishes. Over 400 young people have now graduated from the programmes which are organised by People 1st, the sector skills council for hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism, and Compass Group UK and Ireland, the worldwide contract catering company.
The Next Level programme is funded by the Department for Employment and Learning. The Junior Chefs’ Academy programme is funded by Compass Group UK & Ireland, is supported by The Institute of Hospitality, the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Pubs of Ulster, NICO the Northern Ireland Culinary Organisation and City and Guilds.
The winning college cook-in team will be guest chefs at the Balmoral Show in May and also received a basket of fresh local produce provided by Good Food Northern Ireland.