The Rotary Club of Inverness Culloden ran a Secondary School Masterchef Competition which was held over 7 rounds, during August to November, and included competitors of all ages from Inverness Secondary Schools. The competition was sponsored by Williamsons Food Service.
Round 1 was internal to each participating school and resulted in 4 pupils, from each school, going forward into the main competition. The next 4 rounds were elimination rounds with one winner from each round going forward into the semi-final. In these elimination rounds the pupils were required to produce a menu, purchase the foodstuffs required and then cook a two-course meal for two chefs from Inverness restaurants.
The semi-final was held in 4 top Inverness restaurants and was primarily aimed at giving the competitors the experience of a busy city restaurant during a normal working day. The pupils spent a day in the restaurant under the guidance of the chef and in the evening they cooked a two-course meal for two judges – who were chefs from other Inverness restaurants. All four semi-finalists went forward into the final round.
In all rounds the judges looked at the complexity of the menu as well as the choice and cost of the foodstuffs. During each round they monitored the pupil’s attention to hygiene, organisation in the kitchen and cooking skills. The taste and quality of the final product was also of paramount importance.
The final was held in the University of the Highlands and Islands in November 2016 in front of a large audience.. Pupils were asked to produce a three-course menu, purchase the required food and cook the meal, in the UHI professional training kitchen, before bringing it to the judges in the UHI Lecture Theatre. The audience could see what was happening in the kitchen via a video link to the Lecture Theatre and so could watch the competitors as they prepared and cooked their meals. The judges were Mark Greenaway of the Mark Greenaway Restaurant in Edinburgh, Brian McLeish the head Chef of the Moonfish Café in Aberdeen and a 2014 BBC Professional Masterchef Fiinalist and Kevin Macgillivray the President of the Federation of Chefs Scotland. They all tasted the dishes and gave constructive criticism to each pupil in turn. Thereafter, the judges decided on a winner and explained to the pupils, and the audience, why they chose that competitor. The winner, Megan Keith, received a splendid trophy and all contestants in the competition received a certificate.
The final was covered by the local press as well as by Alba television.
The competition received great support from the local business community and also from hotels and restaurants in the city who offered to judge and sponsor pupils during the competition. Their help and support was greatly appreciated by Inverness Culloden Rotary Club. In addition, the pupils were extremely appreciative for the expertise and assistance the chefs gave to them.
The competition not only helped to raise the profile of Rotary within the local community but also formed relationships between the Rotary Club and local businesses as well as forming links with the local Secondary schools. All concerned expressed a willingness to participate in next year’s competition.
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