The Challenge was launched earlier this year by Michelin starred chef, Alan Murchison, when pupils from Bournemouth Collegiate School and Hampshire Collegiate School, which are part of the United Learning Group, were given a Fine Dining Challenge which set pupils from the two schools head to head in a battle of the counties.
Pupils from each of the schools had originally been challenged to create their own 3 course meal, explain their thinking and method behind their menu and to consider which ingredients would be used and sourced from the county that they live in. Pupils had to prepare either the starter, main course, or the desert from their menu and take a picture of themselves with their creation.
The entries were judged by George Blogg and Nina Basset of Hotel TerraVina in 2 categories: Years 7-9 and Years 10 – 13. One lucky winner from each category and school was picked and given the opportunity to spend the day at Hotel TerraVina in Hampshire where they enjoyed a day of culinary pleasure! They were fighting to become the overall winner of the Challenge.
Nina Bassett, owners of New Forest based Hotel TerraVina said, “The competition is a great way of involving the students in a fun, exciting and stimulating project that will give them a real feel for local produce, working within the community and resourcing products. We wish both schools the best of luck!”
The lucky finalists from each school were Year 7 Daisy Stallard from Bournemouth Collegiate School, Year 7 Cornelia Conradie from Hampshire Collegiate School, Year 10 William Aitchison from BCS and Year 11 Jack Coak from HCS.
The morning was spent working with the Executive Chef of Hotel Terravina, George Blogg. George who has much experience of working in Michelin Starred restaurants has been the Executive Chef at TerraVina for 1 year and enjoys a fantastic and growing reputation. George said, “This competition really reflects the Hotel TerraVina ethos of encouraging young people to enter the hospitality industry.”
George talked to the pupils about his role as chef at the hotel and shared his wisdom. He advised the budding chefs, “You have to be passionate about food and enjoy the job in order to be a successful chef.” He talked the pupils through their individual dishes and ingredients.
The pupils worked in the kitchen and learned butchery skills and practised de-boning and taking off the legs of a poussin. William and Jack said, “We could now use the same technique with different types of game birds.”
Pupils and teachers then enjoyed lunch in the hotel’s restaurant and delighted over the food which they had helped to prepare earlier – Poussin, roasted breast and confit legs, Pomme Anna, spinach, asparagus and broad beans. They finished their meal with an exquisite raspberry soufflé with home-made white chocolate ice cream.
The afternoon began with pupils set the task of preparing their chosen dish and this is where the real competition began. Pupils were helped to set up in the hotel’s kitchen and then had to prepare their dish. There was a certain amount of tension in the air as all pupils were keen to win the coveted prize.
HCS Cornelia, who was preparing crumpets, chocolate and a New Forest ice cream tower with fresh fruit salad with grandilla pulp said, “I really enjoy cooking for my family. I prefer making deserts.”
BCS Daisy who was preparing milk chocolate and coffee nib tarts with raspberry and orange liqueur coulis said that her inspiration for cooking came from her family. She said, “I love cooking with spices and seasoning my dishes. It’s great fun being here today. It would be nice to win. The prize would be a good birthday present for my dad!”
BCS Will was preparing a main course of stuffed chicken breast with mushroom cream sauce and lightly seasoned wedges accompanied by long stem broccoli, Chanteeres, carrots and mange tout. He said, “The ingredients of my dish are all from local Dorset producers and bought from my local farm shop, Hockeys. I’ve used Blue Vinney cheese which is a Dorset cheese.”
HCS Jack set to work on a Hazlenut and pain au chocolat bread and butter pudding. Jack commented, “I’ve used lots of fresh local Hampshire products, including eggs and cream. I’ve been practising different versions of my dish for today and I’m pleased with the final product.”
The overall winner of the Fining Dining Challenge was announced by Nina and George who said, “We’ve chosen our winner by considering various factors ; we’ve taken in to account seasonality of ingredients, balance of ingredients, how pupils worked in the kitchen, use of local produce, attitude, organisation and how the pupils have worked with others. Our chosen winner is William Aitchison from Bournemouth Collegiate School.”
Nina added, “I’ve been so impressed with the efforts of all the pupils today. They’ve shown so much enthusiasm and skill. They’ve also been incredibly polite and great ambassadors for their schools.”
As part of his prize William will be invited to dine at Hotel TerraVina with his parents and his winning dish will be shown on the hotel’s menu for a limited period of time.
William said, “I am so happy to win. I put a lot of thought and preparation in to my menu. I really enjoyed working in a professional kitchen. It’s my ambition to become a chef so it’s really satisfying to win today.”
Tom French, food technology teacher at BCS said, “It’s been a great experience for the pupils to see a real life working kitchen. It’s been a wonderful opportunity that you don’t get every day. They are very lucky pupils.”
Neil Joisce, Teacher from Hampshire Collegiate School finished by adding, “Hotel TerraVina has shown incredible generosity today and we would like to say a huge thank you to everyone at the hotel and in the kitchen for sharing their knowledge and skills. We’ve been made so welcome!”