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Round-up: TUCO competitions 2016

09 May 2016 by
Round-up: TUCO competitions 2016

On 21-22 March, the University Caterers Organisation's Competitions took place at the University of Warwick. And for the first time in the event's 23-year history, there was a crowd of spectators to cheer on the chefs, baristas and front-of-house professionals. Katey Pigden reports

More than 140 competitors were put to the test in cookery challenges, service standards, bar and barista work and Salon Culinaire competitions at the University Caterers Organisation's (TUCO) 23rd skills competitions at the University of Warwick.

The prestigious two-day event had a record number of entries and several firsts, including a venue change after 22 years.

"After many brilliant years hosting the competition in Blackpool, we have moved to a new, larger venue at the historical University of Warwick," said Julie Barker, chair of TUCO.

This year also saw the launch of the Campus Speed Cook Challenge, where participants had to deliver a vegetarian dish from scratch within 30 minutes, as well as the TUCO Innovation Awards, including the Student Experience, New Concept and Marketing Categories.

And for the first time ever, chefs had the added pressure of competing in front of a live audience. "I am delighted to see the event grow year-on-year," said Barker, "and it is testament to the high standard of skills displayed throughout the competition. Personally I am very proud of the incredible talent and passion that our members demonstrate."

Alison Shedlock, chair of the TUCO Competitions Group, said: "As always, the competitions give our members' talented people the opportunity to showcase their skills. It also demonstrates the importance of great food and service in support of the all-important student experience we strive for."

Barista Skills Challenge

Gold Gemma Wright, University of Birmingham

Silver Andrea Galanska, Imperial College London

Bronze Matt Haw, Lancaster University

Best speciality drink Emelise Vassallo, University of Edinburgh

The Barista Skills Challenge, now in its fourth year, welcomed 27 baristas from across the country and was spread across the two days.

Competitors had just 15 minutes to produce four espressos, four cappuccinos and four espresso-based, non-alcoholic speciality drinks before presenting them to a panel of judges, with points being docked for over-running. While creating the drinks, baristas had to give a live commentary to explain what they were doing and demonstrate their knowledge.

Street Food Chef of the Year

Gold Matthew Crooks, University of East Anglia

Silver Janet Szypillo, University of Exeter

Bronze and Best Newcomer Stuart Mitchell, University of Edinburgh

Reflecting the changing face of the buoyant university food sector, the Street Food Chef of the Year challenge returned for its second year. A total of 16 chefs competed in two heats to showcase their culinary flair and expertise.

Competitors were tasked with producing a vegetarian, chicken and a sustainable fish dish for two covers, based around a street food theme, within two hours. Dishes had to be cooked live, from scratch, and presented in a disposable street food-style container.

Campus Speed Cook Challenge

Gold Rohan Wadke, Forth Valley College

Silver Karol Zelek, University of Edinburgh

Bronze Louise Chatfield, Staffordshire University

The Campus Speed Cook Challenge is new for 2016 and put competitors under pressure in a variety of ways. Not only were they given a 30-minute cooking slot, they also had limited equipment and were allowed only three pans. Very basic preparation was allowed before the competition, such as peeling and washing vegetables, but pre-cutting was not permitted.

Chefs' Challenge

Gold Stewart Turner and Michael Kitchin, University of Birmingham

Silver and best hygiene award Simon Wood and Lisa Hall, University of Leeds

Bronze Tracy Carr and Joe Berry, University of Sheffield

Highly commended menu Aaron Tong and Nick Denning, University of Exeter, and Steven Robertson and Stevan Bedward, Imperial College London

The TUCO Chefs' Challenge saw 22 teams of two chefs cook a three-course meal from a list of mystery ingredients, which were presented to them on the eve of the competition. They had one hour to devise a menu suitable for fine-dining to show the judges before the heats began the following day. Teams were given an hour and 15 minutes to produce their dishes.

Chefs cooked in the suite of competition kitchens, which were set up to allow audience members to watch the teams hard at work, with big screens showing a bird's-eye view of the action. Winners Stewart Turner and Michael Kitchin impressed the judges with their menu of pan-fried plaice with crab and coconut panna cotta as a starter, followed by main of poussin breast filled with chicken liver, braised leg carrots, roasted shallots and pancetta crisps. The meal was rounded off with chocolate cremeux, tamarind spiced orange gelée and lemongrass foam.

Salon Culinaire

Best in Salon Jackie Rowlands, University of Chester

Other classes included bread display, canapés, coffee shop-style sponge cake, cupcake challenge, decorative exhibit, novelty decorated cake, plated main course and restaurant plated dessert.

Bar Skills Competition

Gold Sam Walker, University of Manchester

Silver Jasmin Turner, Royal Holloway, University of London

Bronze Ben Foll, University of Reading

Returning for its second year, the Bar Skills Competition saw eight competitors work against the clock to produce a round of four drinks in a bar situation, a signature cocktail including specific ingredients, and two two-pint pitcher drinks - one with alcohol and one without, in 15 minutes.

Ben Foll received the best speciality cocktail award for his 'Fire and Ice' signature drink, which consisted of Beefeater gin shaken with a homemade blend of sugar syrup, cranberry juice and half an apple, which was strained over ice and garnished with sliced red chilli which slowly added spice to the drink.

Service Skills Challenge

Gold Samantha Chick, University of Warwick

Silver Adam Finney, University of Birmingham

Bronze Jacqui Cattle, University of Cambridge

Best table lay-up Emma Cullen, University of Edinburgh

The Service Skills Challenge is open to all foodservice staff that provide front-of-house services for student meals or hospitality services within the university sector. Eight competitors were tasked with serving a three-course meal with wine to a table of four guests. They were judged on the preparation of a themed table setting (chosen by the competitor), as well as customer care, product knowledge, technical skills and teamwork.

TUCO Innovation Awards

This year also marked the introduction of the TUCO Innovation Awards for marketing, new concept and student experience. The marketing award recognises those that have demonstrated an initiative that has had a positive impact on the catering within their institution. The University of Leeds received the award for its 'A Refreshing Change' campaign.

The new concept award celebrates member universities which have designed, developed and launched a new catering outlet within their catering area, and was won by the University of Winchester for its gourmet burger concept. Royal Holloway, University of London, was awarded the student experience award for its street food initiative, which judges said enhanced the students' university experience.

Skills competition winners

Bar Skills Competition

Sam Walker, University of Manchester

Barista Skills Challenge

Gemma Wright, University of Birmingham

Campus Speed Cook Challenge

Rohan Wadke, Forth Valley College

Chefs' Challenge

Stewart Turner and Michael Kitchin, University of Birmingham

Salon Culinaire

Best in Salon: Jackie Rowlands, University of Chester

Service Skills Challenge

Samantha Chick, University of Warwick

Street Food Chef of the Year

Matthew Crooks, University of East Anglia

TUCO Innovation Awards

Marketing - University of Leeds (A Refreshing Change campaign)

New concept - University of Winchester (Gourmet Burger concept)

Student experience - Royal Holloway, University of London (Street Food initiative)

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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