A local schoolgirl whose chocolate dessert would “grace any restaurant” has been crowned University College Birmingham’s Young Chef of the Year 2017.
Emily Humphreys, 16, of Kings Norton Girls School, scooped the University’s inaugural competition for pupils after an exciting cook off that showcased a wide range of culinary skills, techniques and flavour combinations.
The judging team, comprising food industry experts such as Michelin star chef Glynn Purnell, said they were amazed by the proficiency and passion of all the chefs. The competitors had just 90 minutes to cook a hot main course and a dessert from scratch using fresh ingredients.
Emily revealed she entered the competition – the first of its type for 14 to 16-year-olds staged by UCB – on the application deadline day after a friend told her to have a go.
Her winning menu featured cranberry-glazed chicken breast, dauphinoise potatoes, garlic and bacon sprouts, crispy chicken skin and a red wine jus. For her crowd-pleasing dessert, Emily made a chocolate shell containing a chocolate mousse with a genoise sponge, orange sauce and chocolate “soil.”
The Year 11 pupil said she was stunned to win and overcame her competition nerves to produce two outstanding dishes. Emily said: “It was scary taking part but at the same time it was really enjoyable. It has been a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone.”
Her first prize includes a VIP culinary experience at Purnell’s restaurant in Birmingham. Emily will get to work alongside the celebrity chef for a morning before enjoying lunch with three guests. She also won an iPhone 7 and £500 worth of cookery equipment vouchers for her school.
Purnell said: “This has been a fantastic competition and the standard of the cooking has surpassed my expectations. Young British chefs are dispelling the myth that people in this country can’t cook. The winner’s pudding would grace the table of any restaurant.
“This new competition is great for Britain and it is great for the West Midlands region. Now Birmingham not only leads the way in restaurants but also with our kids at school. It is refreshing to see.”
Fellow judge and UCB graduate Ben Ebbrell – whose YouTube cookery channel, Sortedfood, has 1.7 million subscribers – said: “The standard of the cooking has been unreal. There is not a single kitchen skill that has not been used by the contestants. Whether you end up going into the profession or not, cooking teaches core life skills.”
The judging panel included Peter Griffiths, president of the British Culinary Federation, Neil Rippington, Dean of the College of Food at UCB, and chef lecturer Gary Goldsmith.
Mr Griffiths said: “The standard has been exceptionally good. It has been really encouraging to talk to the young chefs and hear about the passion they have for cooking.
“The UCB competition has a nice feel to it and it gives young people a great introduction to the industry – it gives them a true taste of what the industry is about.”
UCB’s Neil Rippington paid tribute to the support of the sponsors – the Savoy Educational Trust, City & Guilds, the British Culinary Federation and Russums – and said the University now hoped to make the competition an annual showcase for young culinary talent.
Mr Rippington said: “We have been overwhelmed by the reaction to the University’s first ever competition for young chefs. Encouraging the next generation of industry professionals, and providing them with the platform and skills to achieve their goals, goes to the heart of what we do at UCB.
“It has been truly inspiring to see the dedication and enthusiasm of the competitors. They are just the sort of young people the industry needs to attract, nurture and support and UCB is delighted to be playing its part in promoting education and training at the grassroots.”