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Students Shine Bright in Inter College Culinary Challenge


Essential Cuisine are delighted to have taken part and sponsored the 'Inter College Culinary Challenge' that took place on Tuesday 20th June 2023 at City College Southampton in their industry-standard training kitchens and Aspire Restaurant.


Over 70 students across five colleges (City College Southampton, Eastleigh College, Fareham College, Basingstoke College of Technology) competed on their culinary skills, cocktail/mocktail making, professional table lay-up, pasta, and other hospitality skills.


We would like to offer a huge congratulations to everyone that took part in this amazing event. Overall College winner – Eastleigh College

Joe Abbess Memorial Award – Olivia Leigh, Eastleigh College

Pasta Class, Gold Best in Class – Fiona King, City College Southampton

Gallo Rice Risotto Dish, Gold Best in Class – Jamie Rowe, Eastleigh College

Vegetable Cuts, Gold Best in Class – Olivia Leigh, Eastleigh College

Mystery Box Challenge, Gold Best in Class – Jonty King, Fareham College

Restaurant Table Lay Up, Gold Best in Class – Maddison Lipscombe, Eastleigh College

Mocktail or Cocktail making, Gold Best in Class – Sam Jurd, Eastleigh College

Simon Hart, Senior Teacher in Hospitality, City College Southampton stated, “I find student competitions a great way to stretch learning and to help get them ready for the workplace. It gives students the opportunity to excel and a competitive edge required in the industry. It is important that students enjoy what they are doing if they are going to progress into head chef/manager roles and this is often the first step on that journey. Students have the opportunity to talk and learn from the experienced judges, so they are able to improve their skills going forward. It is invaluable to have Harvest and Essential Cuisine as well as other industry sponsors willing to donate their time, products and experience that allows us to run such events. This year especially it was great to run the best overall student category and name it after one of our rising stars that tragically died earlier this year. The ‘Joe Abbess memorial award’ will allow us to create a legacy for him”.


The British Culinary Federation generously donated a prize for the ‘Joe Abbess memorial award’ of a seeded place into the final of one of the BCF’s student competition to be held later this year. Olivia Leigh, from Eastleigh College won this award as the highest achiever overall.

The day was a huge success, with lots of happy excited students filled with optimism and confidence, buzzing around the college between categories. It was a pleasure to see all the students encouraging each other and cheering each other on.


We had a great variety of judges showing their support and taking part across the competition.

Lex Bartlett-Woodnutt, Apprentice Manager, The Pig Group stated “There is a shortage of chefs throughout the hospitality industry, we as a group work with many schools and colleges to encourage students into hospitality. This competition helps students to gain skills in pressure, time management etc. which gives them a feel of a real kitchen environment”.

Alistair Craig, Executive Chef, Careys Manor Hotel, stated “I feel it is important to support the industry whilst also supporting the students and showing them what is achievable”.

Ian Gibbs, Head Chef, The Riverside Coventry Arms, Wimborne says “These students are the future of the hospitality industry. Its good to create a bit of pressure to give them a feel of the industry whilst also an opportunity to gather good knowledge”.


Martin Dawkins, The Rustic Chef quoted “It's nice to see the students embracing different food styles including classic, fusion, wacky etc. this competition is a great experience for them”.

Phil Clark, Development Chef for Harvest stated that, “As a company, we want to encourage the students to enjoy the food, enjoy the cooking and gain as much experience as they can before they go out to the industry. The students are the future chefs, future buyers, and we want to help encourage more young people into the industry”.


South West Business Development Manager for Essential Cuisine, and a BCF ambassador, Gary Kilminster commented “I believe culinary competitions are a massive part of any young chefs learning curve, they put the students under pressure, make them think outside of the box which they wouldn’t normally do within their studies and can help build confidence. To put yourself above the parapet and have your dishes securitised by professional experienced chefs shows determination and ambition, and I would like to say a massive well done on behalf of Essential Cuisine and personally to all the competitors and wish them all the very best ”.

With thanks to the sponsors:

The British Culinary Federation The organisers:

Essential Cuisine The front of house judges:

Patina Farnham, Novotel Hotel Southampton

Pedro Carvalho, Operations Manager at the Montagu Arms Hotel Kitchen judges:

Ian Gibbs, Head Chef the Coventry Arms

Alistair Craig, Executive Chef Careys Manor

Andrew Mackenzie, Exclusive Hotels

Phil Clark, Development Chef Harvest

Robin Dudley, Business Development Chef, Essential Cuisine

Martin Dawkins, The Rustic Chef



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