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Stanwix Talent in the Papers

Future Chef Andi Menzies

Last week I highlighted another successful Stanwix teenager who had been sharpening her culinary skills and had qualified for the North West Regional Final of the Future Chef competition (see Stanwix Talent in the Papers)

After a good chinwag with Andi and her Dad, the story can be told. Andi is is one of those modest, unassuming characters who pops up and gives the lie to the media image of “teenagers”. Here’s a young lady who has a very positive outlook on life! We had a short conversation on the phone, where I asked Andi to tell the tale of how she ended up in the limelight in Manchester.

The Friend Connection in Trinity School

It turns out that she was inspired to have a go by her good friend Meg Leslie who enjoyed a successful run in the competition last year.  As Andi said,”It sounded fun!”, so she had a go. In the first, school based round, Andi cooked up an asparagus, pea and Parmesan risotto In this round Andi came in a respectable third, but it looked like she was out of the running for the bright lights, as only two from each school were allowed to go through to the county competition.

Things looked up though, when it was decided that the county competition would be hosted by Trinity School. The host school was allowed to enter a third competitor and suddenly the game was back on for Andi!

On the day she found herself up against pupils from Keswick School and Alston’s SKS. In this round the aspirant Future Chefs had to produce a two course meal from ingredients costing a maximum of £6, within an hour and a half. The main course had to be out within the hour and the dessert by the end of the final half hour. All the while, the judges were patrolling and observing the individual competitors, making notes and making up their minds.

Andi’s offering comprised a main course of fillet of cod with a herb and Parmesan crust, on a bed of mustard mash with honey glazed carrots in balsamic syrup. Pud, (sorry, dessert) was dark chocolate pudding with white chocolate and amaretto sauce. What I want to know is … how does a 15 year old come up with ideas like this? Andi came through this round victorious and after getting the wild card entry to this round, she was suddenly in line for a place at the regional final in Manchester.

Development for a Teenager With Eyes on Becoming a Future Chef

One of the valuable aspects of the competition (from an old die hard teacher’s point of view anyway) is that the competitors are all assigned a mentor who is a professional chef. In Andi’s case her mentor was from Bijoux in Carlisle (she’s not very good with names!!). It turns out that Andi has already got some “professional” mileage under her belt, as she works with her cousins at weekends, in the Holme Bistro, down in Denton Holme. So I suppose that’s where the ideas come from! They definitely not your average, run of the mill teenager recipes.

The 23rd of January arrived to find Andi, her Dad and Mrs. Dinsdale at Manchester University, with eight other hopeful competitors, faced with industrial ovens in an enormous catering space. “It was scary …everyone freaked out because of the ovens, we’d never used ovens like that before and we didn’t know how hot they would be!”, was one comment that slipped out as we chatted. Although the individual names escaped her, Andi remembered that the judges included the head chef from the Hilton Manchester, two from Ma Maison and another from Harvey Nichols. No pressure then!

Competitors were able to choose their own dishes within an £8 budget and had to arrive with their own ingredients. On this occasion, Andi chose the same desert as the previous round, “ …it got me through…” and for the main course it was chicken stuffed with sausage meat, wrapped in bacon; with little gem lettuce, coriander and parsley risotto When the hour and a half were up, competitors were expected to clean up and then go through to the presentation room and stand by their plates for the judge’s verdict with parents and spectators watching. Andi didn’t win but she came in a very respectable second. The winner of the competition was a young lady from Manchester.

Would she do it again? “Oh I don’t know …I’m not sure; it was a really good experience, but it was really stressful”. Interestingly, she didn’t say NO! Watch this space.