Lily Neill and Hannah Ewing, a team of pupils from Drumglass High School in Dungannon have been named a regional finalist of the 2017 Mount Charles Big School Cook Off, and will progress to the grand finale in June.
The competition, which is organised 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.
After whittling down more than 120 entries at stage one, the heats saw 39 teams of pupils between Year 8 – Year 10 from 21 schools across Northern Ireland and Donegal given the same set of ingredients to create a pasta dish of their choice.
The Drumglass High School team’s dish of spaghetti stir fry beat off stiff competition from St Ciaran’s High School at their heat.
Head of Economics, Mrs Sabrina Glasgow, said: ““I am delighted that Lily and Hannah have won their regional heat and will progress to the final of the Big School Cook Off in June.
“The girls have worked so hard to make it to this stage, gaining confidence by presenting and speaking about their choice of ingredients and dish to the judging panel. Both girls have also learned valuable life skills by working as a team to create and cook a pasta dish.
“The girls have always shown a keen interest in Home Economics and hope to pursue careers in the food industry in the future. This is a fantastic achievement for both girls and I’m sure this competition will help to encourage them in their future pathways.”
Leann Duffy, Group Director of Catering at Mount Charles said: “Well done to the Drumglass High School team and thank you to St Catherine’s College in Armagh for hosting what turned out to be a truly fierce competition! We were seriously impressed by the knowledge of those taking part, and by their passion for food and cooking.
“It was amazing to see how the same set of ingredients could be used to create such a variety of wonderful dishes, demonstrating the creativity and innovation of our young chefs.
“Each of our regional finalists will take part in the grand final event on 16th June, where they’ll cook the dish that they submitted in their original entry to the competition and we are very much looking forward to seeing these recipes come to life.
“Good luck to our finalist teams, make sure you get plenty of practice in to give yourselves the best chance of becoming the Big School Cook Off 2017 champions!”
Irish News Marketing Manager John Brolly added: “It was really exciting for the Irish News to be involved in the Big School Cook Off with Mount Charles as you got a real sense of the excitement and passion that our young students have for food. The professionalism and energy that they put into the cooking challenge was amazing to experience.
“I would like to thank all the schools, teachers and students that took part as it was a pleasure to experience the high standards they have set for themselves. We are really looking forward to the final,” he said.
Each county winning team has won £200 of vouchers 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 of vouchers 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.
Mount Charles is Ireland’s largest locally owned provider of contract catering, cleaning and vending services for business, industry, retail, education, government and healthcare organisations across Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain.