Culcheth High School retain their Junior MasterChef title at Warrington & Vale Royal College

Budding young chefs putting their culinary skills to the test in a heated competition that saw Culcheth High School crowned champions of Warrington & Vale Royal College’s Junior MasterChef for the second year running.

22 high school pupils from across Warrington and Vale Royal swapped the classroom for the Winwick Road college’s state-of-the-art kitchens when they took part in the heated contest on Friday 22nd June.

The event, organised by the college’s school engagement team – in partnership with the hospitality and catering department – was dubbed a huge success by students, parents and teachers.

It was the second time the college has hosted the event – with last year’s winners Culcheth High School retaining their title.

Judges Scott Surtees, chef lecturer at Warrington & Vale Royal College and pastry chef, and Rob Bruford from Dine Contract Catering – who sponsored the event – had a tough time deciding on a winner, describing the standard of food produced as being “absolutely mind-blowing”.

Each team was tasked with producing a chicken dish, as well as a pastry-based dessert, with Jamie Betton and Jake Lees sealing the deal for Culcheth with their mouth-watering wild garlic chicken kiev and tangy lemon tart.

Their success was rewarded with a copy of Aiden Byrne’s ‘Made in Great Britain’, a gold medal and £100 worth of high street vouchers.

Jake and Jamie will also have the opportunity to cook their winning dishes at Dine Contract Catering’s head office at Birchwood Business Park.

Jamie said: “It feels really good to win. We have both really enjoyed today and it’s been a good experience to work in the kitchens here at Warrington & Vale Royal College.”

Jake added: “We were really impressed by the facilities the hospitality and catering department have here.”

Other schools taking part in the competition were Great Sankey High School, University Academy Warrington, Weaverham High School and Cardinal Newman.

Selecting a winner proved so difficult for judges that two special bonus prizes were handed out, with Chloe Steen and Jessica Dixon from Great Sankey winning a day’s pastry training with Scott in recognition of their hard work.

Jazmin Adebisi and Rebecca Dean from Weaverham High School were awarded the prize for best teamwork, which included a copy of chef Galton Blackiston’s ‘Hook, Line and Sinker’.

Teacher Vickie Knight, from Great Sankey, said: “Taking part in Junior Masterchef at Warrington & Vale Royal College is an amazing opportunity for our students to work in the industry standard kitchens and feel the pressure as well as improve their overall skills. They have all really enjoyed today and have been encouraged – the enthusiasm that the judges have shown has really spurred them on.”

Chef lecturer Scott Surtees said: “The standard of food produced today as part of Junior Masterchef was absolutely mind-blowing and made judging for myself and Rob extremely difficult. We actually held our own internal competition earlier this month and the majority of the food produced today would have been ranked really highly against that of our full-time catering students.

“I hope that these young chefs continue to pursue catering and it’s great to see a standard of food coming through from schools that we would be proud to serve in a restaurant.”

Lauren Dower, School Engagement Officer at the college, added: “It is fantastic to see high school students from across our catchment area having such a good time as part of Junior Masterchef. This is one of many events that we organise at the college to create opportunities for teenagers to experience what college life is like and put their skills to the test.

“We really hope to see the event grow over the coming years and look forward to welcoming even more budding young chefs in the future.”