The hunt is on for the South West Junior Chef of the Year 2015 as this prestigious regional competition opens for entries. The ‘junior’ category is exclusively for 11 – 16 year olds who are still at school and is an opportunity for budding chefs to experience cooking in a professional kitchen and be mentored by accomplished chefs. Entries close on 31st July 2015.

Last year’s winner, Melissa Johnson of Ottery St Mary, Devon said of the competition: ‘I would really recommend the Junior South West Chef of the Year to anyone who is passionate about cooking. You get to meet amazing chefs and learn so much about the industry.

Melissa JohnsonGetting through to be mentored by Matt Durrant, Chef Lecturer at Exeter College taught me a lot about the possibilities that can be created from a few simple and local ingredients. My advice would be to have a go, and if you’re lucky enough to win, then take up the opportunities of work experience and demonstrations because they are brilliant.’

Those interested in entering are invited to submit their recipe for a main course to feed two people. The entry can be emailed and should include the cooking method in full as well as a photograph of the finished dish. The competition aims to focus on South West produce as much as excellence in cooking, with entrants asked to source their ingredients principally from the West Country region.

All recipes submitted will be judged by professional chefs and those selected to go through to the second round will be invited to cook-offs held at county level – Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire. Here the young cooks will be asked to cook and present their dish in 90 minutes.

Winners from each cook-off will go through to a final held on Saturday 10th October at Ashburton Cookery School in Devon. The finalists will prepare another main course for two people and have the option to recreate their dish or make something new. Crucially, the same principal ingredients must be used. Prior to the final, each county winner has the opportunity to receive one-on-one mentoring from one of the county judges to help them improve and perfect their dish.

Michael Caines, Judge and co-founder of the competition says, “South West Chef is a very exciting opportunity for young people who love to cook. It is a chance to create a plate of food of their design, in a fully equipped kitchen. The chance to meet fellow cooking enthusiasts and be mentored by a professional chef is fantastic for boosting skill and confidence. This industry is very competitive but I am always delighted with the standard coming through. It’s very rewarding to see careers being formed as a result of SW Chef and the competition helps us continue to celebrate the exceptional produce we have in the South West.”

The South West Chef of the Year competition culminates in an awards presentation dinner on Thursday 29th October at Exeter Golf and Country Club where the winner from each category is invited celebrate their achievement. The Junior South West Chef of the Year will receive a number of exciting prizes including a Robert Welch Signature chef’s knife and sharpener and work experience with David Everitt-Matthias at the two Michelin-starred Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham. The Awards dinner is prepared by a number of guest chefs who are all previous winners of the competition and assisted in the kitchen and front of house by students of the Michael Caines Academy.

south west chefOther categories in the South West Chef of the Year are: Professional, Young Professional, Student Chef and Home Cook. Entry is via an online entry form available at www.southwestchef.co.uk/how-to-enter/. Entry to the Junior category closes on 31st July 2015.