Head chefs in the North West of England are being urged to help propel their protégés up the ladder of success by supporting their entry in one of the fastest growing competitions in the UK.
The hunt for North West Young Chef 2013 is now underway, with organisers confirming the first county heats in this year's battle of brilliance for chefs under 23, sponsored by Essential Cuisine.
With regional acclaim, a stage at a top restaurant and automatic entry into the Craft Guild of Chefs' National Young Chef of the Year at stake, it's a golden opportunity for rising stars.
However, without the support of head chefs and college lecturers, contenders can be on a back foot, according to Brian Mellor, competition founder and chairman of judges.
"As we've seen over and again in the past 10 years, this competition can do wonders for an up and coming chef's profile, but contenders do need the practical and moral support of their mentors, whether they need to pick their brains on ingredient sourcing, fine tune a particular cooking skill or have someone do a dummy run with them. While the judges are not there to trip anyone up, the cook-offs can be nerve-wracking and practice is key to getting it right on the day.
"Ultimately, I can't emphasise enough to head chefs and lecturers how much of a difference their backing and guidance can make in a competition such as this, while the sheer amount these young chefs gain from the experience adds enormous value to the kitchen they work in in itself."
Organisers now want to hear from young chefs to take part in the five county heats, with entrants required to work in Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire or Cumbria.
With local provenance an instrumental part of the competition's ethos, contenders will be asked to cook a three-course meal for two using North West, seasonal produce costing up to £25, a challenge that has produced some spectacular results over the last few years.
In a new initiative introduced in 2012, county heat winners will all be invited to a masterclass with an acclaimed chef prior to June's final, the chance to hone particular skills with the industry's best.
Last year, finalists spent the day at Harthill Cookery School in Tattenhall with Aiden Byrne, who walked them through his fish course for his appearance on BBC Two's Great British Menu; beetroot poached salmon with caviar, razor clam, fennel and beetroot. His key advice was to "know when to stop, have the discipline to know when a dish is complete" and "don't ever stop learning; you must invest time to develop your skills. Take sideways steps to broaden your knowledge."
North West Young Chef 2012 was won by Lewis Gallagher, a foraging fan who gets to know his suppliers personally and works at the Grill on the Hill at Stanley House, Mellor, in Lancashire.
To enter North West Young Chef 2013, which is open to everyone from college trainees to pub and hotel chefs, or to put a protégé forward, call 01606 541490 or visit http://www.essentialcuisine.com/our-story/north-west-young-chef-competition There is also a Facebook page and you can follow events on Twitter Tweets by NWYoungChefComp .
The North West Young Chef 2013 heats will take place on:
- Greater Manchester: Wednesday, April 17th at Manchester College
- Cumbria: Friday, April 19th at Kendal College
- Merseyside: Wednesday, April 24th at Southport Colleg
- Cheshire: Thursday, April 25th at South Cheshire College
- Lancashire: TBC