With the deadline for the Country Range Student Chef Challenge on the 1st December fast approaching, the Craft Guild of Chefs National Chairman and Lead Judge Chris Basten has released his top tips for entering and is running a special Q&A to provide additional support for interested colleges.
Taking place on the 16th November at 3:30pm, the Q&A session will enable interested lecturers and students to quiz Chris on this year’s theme, the marking criteria and any other creative, practical or logistical considerations.
To join the Q&A, interested lecturers and students can register and submit their questions here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIofu2hrjktHtEmKs9A4CxQt0HZkEMqdumn
With vast experience in the competition arena, Chris has competed at the Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg in 2002, 2006, 2010 and the Culinary Olympics in Erfurt in 2000, 2004 and 2008, taking silver medals in each event. As Culinary Team Captain in 2007, he led the team that represented England at the Chef Ireland competition in Dublin, returning home with two gold medals.
Chris’s Tips For Submitting Menus & Entering Student Chef
- Pristine planning and preparation are vital to success.
- Read the criteria and guidelines carefully together as a team several times to gain a full understanding of the brief. Write notes and ideas.
- Idea generation and research – look around locally, look at cookbooks, go online and share your ideas as a team. What dishes do you want to cook? What is the local area known for when it comes to food and drink? What local ingredients and flavours are you looking to showcase?
- Testing – once you have highlighted key ingredients of interest and dish ideas, experiment, play around with and refine the ideas in the kitchen. Or maybe even invite friends over for dinner at home and get some honest feedback.
- Final practice – have a final run through and, if possible, get the food judged by lecturers and peers so final tweaks can be made to the dishes before submission.
- Produce a full ingredient list, equipment list, methodology and work plan for all the different steps the team needs to take.
- Write up the draft menus, think about the words and use correct terminology. Do not use classic terms if you are not going to produce items in a classic way. Re-read and make sure the dishes and menu tick all the boxes of the brief.
“With the kitchens crying out for more skilled chefs due to huge shortages, the opportunities to progress, grow and succeed in hospitality have never been as great. Previous winners have gone on to work at Michelin-starred restaurants so these competitions can provide a massive career boost. The Country Range Student Chef Challenge is the perfect preparation, testing key skills and creativity, while providing valuable experience of what it’s like to work in a fast-paced, team orientated kitchen.”
“Whether they have already started preparing their menus or are still undecided on whether they can enter, the Q&A is a great opportunity to ask questions about the brief and gain advice on what the judges are looking for and how best to approach the challenge. There’s still loads of time to put submissions together but they must act soon.”
This Years Brief and Theme
The focus for this year’s competition is “Love Local” and challenges teams to discover and showcase the best of their local area. The food culture and traditions of a local area are heavily influenced and entwined by its history, landscape, people and weather. Local food also plays a significant role in how we connect with, cherish and support our community.
To this end, each team of three culinary students needs to prepare, cook and present a three-course, four-cover menu showcasing the produce, history, heritage and culinary traditions of their local area. If you are interested in taking up the challenge register for the 2024 Challenge.