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The Rotary Young Chef Competition Comes to Calderdale College

Last week students aged 11-17 across Calderdale and Kirklees took part in the national The Rotary Young Chef competition. The annual event which has been running for over 10 years is split into four stages, starting with the local heats which Calderdale College were honoured to host for Calderdale and Kirklees.

All participating students were required to prepare a two course meal, consisting of a main course and a dessert in 1.5 hours with a £10 budget. Calderdale College’s Professional Cookery Tutor, Simon Taylor and Professional Chef, Matthew Benson- Smith were tasked with judging this local heat.

Simon Taylor, Professional Cookery Tutor said: “It’s been a really interesting day, we’ve had students in from schools all over Halifax and we’ve been showcasing what we do here and they’ve been showing us what they’ve been doing at school and at home. I think they have all enjoyed it after the initial nervousness; it’s been a great day.”

Matthew Benson- Smith, Professional Chef & Training Officer said: “Every day of the week I’m in a different kitchen throughout Yorkshire, Lancashire and further afield. I’ve got clients like Manchester City Football Club, high end restaurants and the standard of food produced today has been outstanding.”

The Rotary Young Chef Competition organised by Andrew Waite, Halifax Rotary Club President and Philip Ineson, Competition Co-ordinator. Andrew said: “The College has looked after us very well. We used to hold this competition at Dean Clough and this is the first time we have been to Calderdale College. I’ve had several meetings and everyone has really looked after us, we’re not professional chefs and we rely on people like the staff here to make sure that we get it right.”


Christie Mackie, 15, a student at Trinity Academy was named as the runner up. Christie made a chickpea curry, with lemon and coriander rice and onion bhajis, followed by chocolate brownies with strawberries and crème fraiche. Christie said: “At first I found it very difficult, but as it went further and as everyone got talking, I got more comfortable, and I enjoyed it.”

When asked about Christie’s dish, Matthew said: “Very, very nice, the combinations worked really well, her yoghurt complimented and refreshed the chickpeas as well so very very good.”

Mollie Dodson, 14, a student at Rastrick High School was crowned the winner of the Calderdale and Kirklees local heat, securing a place at the district final in Harrogate, at Bettys Cookery School. For the competition Mollie made a squash and cranberry tagine, with lemon and coriander couscous and flatbread, followed by a date and apple filo pastry parcel with cream. Mollie said: “I thought it was good and working in a proper kitchen was really good and everyone here seems really nice.”

Mollie was declared the winner for a variety of reasons, as Judge Simon explained: “The vegetable tagine was delicious it was really nicely spiced, well, cooked. The couscous she made was exceedingly good, very light, cooked perfectly, there was no moisture to it. It was a really nice thing to eat, well-seasoned. The flat bread, well there were so many processes in that one course, the flavours were great. The dessert was a filo parcel, which again was very tasty but also we like the idea because it mirrored the North African style of the first course. Great work, really tasty and I enjoyed eating it.”

The district final is due to take place at Bettys Cookery School in Harrogate.