Fourteen-year-old Kai Sulcedo had an inkling he was doing well as he prepared the showstopper which landed him the title Hammersmith & Fulham Young Chef of the Year.
“The judges asked me why I was cooking mapo tofu curry noodles,” said the Phoenix Academy student. “I said that I like Chinese cuisine, specifically Sichuan, as it combines so many different types of tastes. When I’d explained my reasons, I felt I had a chance of winning.”
Kai, from Westbourne Park, walked away with the title, a glass trophy, two cooking books and a generous gift card from Westfield after completing his competition menu with a Chinese-inspired coconut pudding.
He had an hour to prepare two courses from scratch in the production kitchen of the West London College Taste restaurant in Barons Court.
A dozen young chefs
The council’s annual cooking contest, hosted by West London College and now in its 11th year, featured 12 young chef finalists working with named core ingredients.
The jury was impressed. Wembley Stadium head chef Gerrard Madden, who has cooked for the Queen, said it was important for young chefs to watch the pennies and make cooking adventurous.
“It’s a life skill, to be shared,” he said. “If it is healthy, nutritious and flavoursome, you are a winner. Nowadays all of the culinary world is online at your fingertips. It’s all about how adventurous you want to be and, if you have a family, how you can diversify meals in several different dishes.”
Winning chef Kai said he had learnt from his mum. “She’s given me loads of tips – how to reduce things, how to develop more flavours and to balance them. At home I normally cook at weekends, when mum and dad allow me.
“Cooking is a really good skill because you are learning for the future, but when I grow up I want to become an engineer, rather than a chef! But cooking will be a major hobby, because I really enjoy it.”
The assessment panel included Dipna Anand, chef at Dip in Brilliant, Andy Needham from L’Amorosa, Ross Stacey of the River Cafe and dietician Miranda Greg.
They judged on organisation timing, food preparation skills, hygiene, presentation, taste and nutritional balance.
Fulham Cross student Selsabil Amtouti, 15, won the nutritional balance honours, describing her main course as “really easy, very nutrient, full of colours and with lots of flavours”. She wants to become a dentist, and own a bakery.
Alongside Kai and Selsabil, the young chefs were: Emily Hudsen and Jack May of Cambridge School, with their teacher Becky Dent; Aisha Anwar of Fulham Cross, with teacher Anna McKeever; Isabel Warren of Godolphin & Latymer, with teacher Carolin Gardner; Vicky Kay of Pheonix High, with teacher Sara Nur; Ahmed Galib, Gamima Ibwila-Empok and Dylan Laurie of Queensmill, respectively with their teachers Foteini Tsiakalou, Mary Uprichards and Liliana Suarez; Arturas Kulickis and Tayor Eley of Wood Lane, with teacher Elena Abril.
Awards were presented by Cllr Daryl Brown, Mayor of Hammersmith & Fulham. “This college is my second home,” she said. “I was a student here, and then a teacher for more than 10 years. This competition encourages skills in teamwork and how to open up a business.”
Dean Vaughan, West London College’s director of curriculum, said that the thinking behind the competition was important. “Food technology may no longer be on every curriculum because of cost, but it is vital youngers learn how to use fresh raw ingredients, look after themselves, maybe make friends, teach others and learn new things.”
Head of curriculum for service industries Denise Charles added: “Everybody wants to do cupcakes, because of The Great British Bake Off! There are lots of job opportunities in the hospitality and catering industry.”
During the competition, the 65 guests were served a hot lunch prepared by the college catering students. Among the guests was Louisa Burlumi from long-term supporter Westfield London, who gave £500 in gift cards to the young chefs.
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