Seafood Contest Fishes for Talent

Ben Bartlett, George McIvor and Franck Pontais made up the judging panel.
Ben Bartlett, George McIvor and Franck Pontais made up the judging panel.

FRESH culinary talent was reeled in by Sunderland College as it hosted the regional heats of The UK Young Seafood Chef of the Year competition.

The highly regarded event saw students from Sunderland, Kendal, Ayrshire, Guernsey, SRUC Elmwood Campus, near St Andrews, and West College Scotland showcase their cooking skills and compete for a place in the finals.

Founded in 1996 by Grimsby Institute, the contest has been supported by some of the best chefs in the UK including Jean-Christophe Novelli and Tom Aikens, and provides young chefs with a platform to demonstrate their flair, understanding, skill and ability using seafood from sustainable sources.

The eastern heats of the competition were staged at City Campus, Sunderland College’s specialist campus for professional and technical courses, with the budding chefs taking advantage of the brand new facilities.

Ellen Thinnesen, Sunderland College principal, said: “It was an honour to play a part in The UK Young Seafood Chef of the Year competition and to witness the incredible culinary talent which is being produced by colleges across the country. We were overwhelmed by the quality of the dishes prepared by the young competitors, and all of the diners were very impressed with their meals and the professionalism of the students.

“Colleges are a gateway for young people to develop innovative and specialised skills, and it is essential that students are given the opportunity to showcase their abilities through events and competitions like this one, particularly when they are supported by leading industry professionals.”

The competition featured teams made up of two students who were tasked with creating a three-course menu using a specific type of fish for each dish.

They presented their meals to an expert panel, comprising of celebrity barbecue chef Ben Bartlett, gastronomic genius and Koppert Cress representative Franck Pontais, and George McIvor from Master Chefs of Great Britain, who scored each dish while VIP guests sampled the competitor’s seafood fare in the college’s new restaurant, City Bistro.

Judges awarded best starter to Ayrshire College, best intermediate to SRUC Elmwood Campus, and best main to Sunderland College.

The three highest scoring teams overall were named as Kendal College, SRUC Elmwood Campus and West College Scotland, and they will now go on to compete in the grand final at Grimsby Institute on 13 June.

Paul Robinson, competition coordinator for Grimsby Institute, said: “It was great working with the staff and students at Sunderland College. The day was carried out with the utmost professionalism and the learners in the catering department are a credit to the college. All the teams that visited were so impressed with the facilities – we will be returning again next year as it was such a great success.”

Sunderland College teaches a wide range of catering qualifications, including professional cookery courses, from City Campus which opened in September following an investment of £29million to develop a city centre base.

The campus houses state-of-the-art equipment and learning spaces, including two teaching kitchens, a bakery, a production kitchen and City Bistro, the college’s commercial restaurant headed up by top North East chef Kelvin Linstead.

For more information about City Bistro, visit or book a table on 0191 511 6270.

To find out more about catering courses at City Campus, visit