Academy pupils through to School Cook Off final

Pictured celebrating Ballymena Academy Grammar School's win at the Antrim regional heat of the Big School Cook Off are (left to right) Simon Toye (Group Development Chef at Mount Charles), Katherine Stronge (Pupil), Catherine Chesney (Pupil) and Caitriona Lennox (Big School Cook Off Ambassador at Mount Charles).
Pictured celebrating Ballymena Academy Grammar School's win at the Antrim regional heat of the Big School Cook Off are (left to right) Simon Toye (Group Development Chef at Mount Charles), Katherine Stronge (Pupil), Catherine Chesney (Pupil) and Caitriona Lennox (Big School Cook Off Ambassador at Mount Charles).

Two Ballymena Academy pupils have been named regional finalists in the 2018 Mount Charles Big School Cook Off, progressing to the grand finale in March.

Winning duo Catherine Chesney and Katherine Stronge won the County Antrim heat of the competition.

The Mount Charles Big School Cook Off, in association with the Irish News and Business in the Community, was created to inspire young people to think about healthy eating and food provenance, and to encourage them to consider a future career in the hospitality industry.

Almost 200 entries were shortlisted down to 52 teams of 11-14 year olds, who all participated in regional heats across the country to secure their place in the final of the cookery competition, which will take place at Belfast Metropolitan College, Titanic Quarter Campus, on March 21.

Head of Home Economics, Gillian Douglas, commented: “I am absolutely over the moon that the girls have won the County Antrim Heat. They are two super students and the ideas for the dish were all their own.

“I would like to thanks Mount Charles for the opportunity to take part, I’s a day the girls will never forget and to win is the icing on the cake.”

Caitriona Lennox, Big School Cook Off Ambassador at Mount Charles, commented: “The competition at each of these regional heats was fierce, and the teams that have reached the grand final of the Cook Off should be proud for beating such stiff competition!

“Each team was asked to cook a main course for two people, based on local produce and with a budget of £5 per meal. We had a wonderful variety of dishes from Tayto-topped fish pie to Killybegs salmon to Gracehill black Pudding, all demonstrating what can be achieved on a tight budget and with just an hour to prepare, cook and serve a dish.

“We’re in the business of catering and I can honestly say we have some future chefs in our midst – the creativity, knowledge and skill on display was fantastic to see. Good luck to all of our budding chefs in the final this March, I’ve no doubt we’re going to see some serious talent on display

Each county winning team has won £200 for their school and a masterclass in cookery from Mount Charles Group Development Chef, Simon Toye, previously Executive Chef at the Michelin-starred Deanes restaurant in Belfast.

The overall winning team at the grand final will win £300 for their school as well as a treat for their family, with a meal at the award winning George’s of The Market restaurant and family tickets to see the Belfast Giants ice hockey team at the SSE Arena.