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In our commitment to supporting young talent, Three R’s had the privilege of attending the final event of the ‘Young Cooks’ competition in Kent last Thursday 6th July 2023. This thrilling bakeoff/masterchef style event invited finalists from Primary, Secondary and Further Education schools across the county to showcase their culinary skills and creativity.

Arriving at Broadstairs College, judges, sponsors, finalists and their families were welcomed by Social Enterprise Kent who were hosting their first Young Cooks event. With everyone abuzz with excitement, the focus was on the success the cooks had already achieved to get to the final. For some, it was their first time seeing what an industrial kitchen is like, for others it was the opportunity to gain direct work experience at the locally renowned gastro pub restaurant, The Dog at Wingham.  This is where all overall winners will be hosted for a VIP lunch later on in the year, in addition to their award and £500 cash prize split.

But for everyone, the whole day was really a special treat for all the finalists and their families to recognise the awe-inspiring talent of these young cooks. Whilst the budding chefs concentrated on cooking up a dish to impress the judges, families were waited on by the Hospitality students from Broadstairs College before everyone rejoined at the adjoining Yarrow Hotel for a luscious lunch buffet, again cooked and served by students from Broadstairs College.

As judges for the primary category, we witnessed a truly incredible display of young talent, a celebration of confidence and creative flair in the kitchen. As we made our way around the stations getting to know our young cooks and their take on a cottage pie main and cake for dessert, we got a true insight into what inspires these junior masterchefs.

Thomas, 9, held true to his own vegetarian lifestyle by making the only vegetarian dish for Primary. His Moroccan cottage pie was a vibrant and aromatic display of spiced lentils topped with sweet potato. With an unmistaken charisma in the kitchen, Thomas, (who usually cooks with his older sister) brought an infectious passion for all things culinary. He was incredibly (and rightfully!) proud of his raspberry sponge cake, even offering to share his ‘chef’s rights’ of leftover raspberries with everyone in the kitchen as a tasty little boost in the last minutes of the competition.

Thomas’ Moroccan pie with peas

We even picked up a few tips of our own from the aspiring foodies. Such as from Sophie, whose ‘Gobble Gobble pie’ was a turkey mince take on the traditional cottage pie with a garlic-infused mash. Primary winner, Abigail, 9, added a Welsh theme to her pie using all Welsh vegetables (leeks, onions, carrots etc.) cut into delicious chunks, with a lamb mince and side of mint sauce to compliment.

For those of us not so comfortable in the kitchen, we may stick to following a recipe step-for-step and measurement-for-measurement, but that wasn’t the case for some of these confident cooks and their skills. Olivia, an aspiring chef/baker showed how culinary talent comes naturally to her, adding a splash of milk to her cake batter, making it “the smoothest she’s ever got it”.

For Olivia, this was her first time in a commercial kitchen and although saying she was nervous, she seemed comfortable and at ease as she worked her way around the kitchen. With a number of Culinary students from Broadstairs College on hand to help with hot ovens, bubbling pots and steaming pans, it was a great testament to these young cooks to see just where their passion could take them.

Olivia concentrating on her lemon drizzle.


Three R’s getting stuck in, with sponsors and judges (Southern Coop and Roger at Broadstairs College) enjoying themselves in the background

Surely the greatest testament of this must be Megan, winner of the Further Education category and a student at Broadstairs herself. Her fish dish blew the judges away and after deliberating, Roger, (chef and judge from the College) proudly announced that Megan was 1 of 5 students who had a work placement lined up at 3-Michelin star restaurant, Sketch, in London. Humble in her acceptance and thanks for being a Young Cooks winner, Megan will no doubt have a colourful kitchen career in the future.

Being wowed with ingredients we’d never tried or heard of before!

And we hope the same for the Secondary contestants, many of whom listed Food Tech as their favourite school subject. Being used to these kitchen settings, they all brought a cool and calm composure to the competition. As we wandered amongst the cooking stations, we were astounded by the creativity of the students. Cooking with ingredients we’d never heard of such as Fenugreek, ambitious cuts of pork loin and meticulously crafting soufflé desserts, gooey brownies or three-tier carrot and walnut cakes.

Secondary finalist, Amber, brought her Greek-Cypriot heritage into her Spanokopita and joked that as any Greek grandmother will tell you, the secret of cooking is by eye and not recipe! We also got a chance to speak to Maisie’s mum, who was incredibly proud to be there supporting her daughter who had actually reached last year’s final but was too ill on the day to attend. She said it was really special to have made it to the finals again and have the chance to come back this year. For Maisie, who undoubtedly loves cooking and hopes to make a future of it, the experience of cooking at Broadstairs College is invaluable.

The College also offers a Junior year for students aged Year 10 and up, allowing them to complete a vocational cooking course alongside their usual GCSE’s. They can then go on to study at the College, gaining direct hands-on experience of a working hospitality environment at the partnered Yarrow Hotel. A beautifully refurbished building, running and functioning throughout the year and staffed by the successful students of Broadstairs College, members of the public can drink, dine and rest at the Hotel.

It was at the hotel that we all joined together for a delicious buffet lunch – one that we unfortunately couldn’t fit in after the scrumptious dishes we’d just judged! For the finalists and families, it was a huge treat to be dined and taken care of in a beautiful ballroom that overlooked the lush green and flowering gardens.
After some very indulgent desserts of rocky-roads and floral blueberry cheesecakes, the time came for the winning announcements.

Delectable desserts

Each of the 15 finalists was awarded a Young Cooks certificate and Macknades goody bag, filled with gifts from all the sponsors as well as yummy treats and ingredients from Macknades themselves.  Our three winners proudly accepted their awards and to continue the celebrations, will be treated to VIP lunch at The Dog at Wingham, who also offer work experience for one of the finalists of the Young Cooks competition.

Presenting the finalists at the Yarrow Hotel awards ceremony

Young Cooks serves as important reminder of encouraging todays young talent. The event provides a platform for young chefs to step out of their comfort zones, test their skills, and receive recognition for their hard work. It’s initiatives like these which encourage them to pursue their passions and build their self-confidence, paving the way for a bright and promising future.

As judges and sponsors of Young Cooks, we were deeply impressed by the incredible talent, creativity, and passion displayed by the young chefs. Witnessing their culinary prowess and the joy they derive from being in the kitchen was truly a delightful experience. We’re proud to be a part of it and extend our congratulations to all the contestants, encourage any budding young chef to enter, and look forward to the culinary careers that will no doubt stem from the many talented young people we met this year.

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