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Aspiring chef wins prestigious Norwegian seafood competition

Katherine Pearson, an 18-year old catering student from Adam Smith College, Fife, took first place in the recent Norwegian Seafood Focus Student Challenge, impressing the judges with her dishes.

The young chef produced a starter of sweet corn cakes with Norwegian prawn and avocado salsa, curry oil and crisp poppadom and a main of herbed Norwegian cod with Mediterranean vegetables, fennel cream, red peppers and crab fritters.

The competition, now in its fourth year, is sponsored by Norwegian Seafood and introduces young chefs to the quality of their cod, haddock and cold water prawns, all from sustainable sources in the Barents Sea. The competition is organised in conjunction with the Craft Guild of Chefs, who also make up the judging panel. Thirty entrants were received from across the country, from which, eight finalists were invited to cook off their recipes at Thames Valley University, London School of Tourism, and Hospitality & Leisure. The finalists battled it out in a close contest to produce two portions of each of their dishes in the allotted 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Stephen Scuffell, executive chef at the Crown Moran Hotel and former chairman of the Craft Guild of Chefs, who led the judging team, commented:  “It was a tough decision as all of the entrants were very good, but in the end it came down the clean flavours of her overall dishes and her cooking technique of the cod that was near flawless. Finally the professional presentation and detail of her written entry helped tip the scales.”

This was Katherine’s first competition and she says about her win “I can’t believe it! It’s amazing.”  She and her tutor were especially proud that she was the first Scottish student chef to win the title. Katherine has always wanted to be a chef, ever since her first job washing dishes in a local restaurant. In addition to Gordon Ramsay and Gary Rhodes, whom she worked with briefly, she lists Scott Lyall, her tutor at Adam Smith College as her main inspiration.  “To come up with the dish, I sat down with Chef Lyall and thought about what flavours and textures I liked and what we thought worked well together.” 

Katherine looks forward to a bright future in catering. While continuing her studies at college, she will soon start a new job as commis chef at the Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye. She is also looking forward to her prize trip to Norway and learning more about Norwegian seafood and meeting other chefs.

Second place went Emily Webb of Westminster Kingsway College. Christopher Rawson took third place; both of them win cash prizes of £250 and £100 respectively. A special prize for Best Presentation, sponsored by Laurent-Perrier, went to Alex Dilling who received a Mont Blanc pen.

In addition to Stephen Scuffell, the judging team included chefs Stefan Greubel of The Royal Garden Hotel, Allister Bishop from Hilton London Paddington and Neil Foster of the Sheraton Park Lane.

Stål Heggelund, managing director of The Norwegian Seafood Export Council says about the event “The Norwegian Seafood Focus Student Challenge has grown to become one of UK’s most prestigious competitions for young chefs. We are pleased and proud to be able to introduce UK’s chefs of the future to our country and its bountiful natural resources.”

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Katherine Pearson (right) from Scotland won the Norwegian Seafood Focus Student ChallengePhoto: The Norwegian Seafood Export Council