New competition programme for Culinary Students at I.T.T

This year the Institute of Technology Tralee initiated a new training programme for their first year student chefs, encouraging them to participate in competition work. The idea behind the initiative is to begin a programme which will be run annually training first year chefs in the art and skill of competition work. This will culminate in a â¿¿Culinary Challengeâ¿¿ where students will compete against each other under the rules and conditions of a national competition, while being scrutinised by an expert judging team. This challenge will facilitate an excellent learning opportunity and provide an invaluable experience to the professional arena that is Culinary Competition work. As in any profession, being aware of your competitors both nationally and internationally is of vital importance to delivering the highest standard of service, and competing in such situations will expose students to the competitive nature of the industry and offer great opportunities for enthusiastic trainee chefs in the culinary world.

This year's competitors The theme of this yearâ¿¿s contest was â¿¿Second class cuts of Irish Pork and Pork Products cooked and presented in a contemporary mannerâ¿¿. This brief gave the competitors huge scope to test their knowledge and understanding of cookery methods to suit the cuts of meat supplied.  It also challenged competitorsâ¿¿ ability to use second class cuts of pork and pork products to produce a contemporary and creative menu. Each competitor had to produce one starter and one main course. Each entry was evaluated on creativity, practicality and effective use of the ingredients supplied, as well as workmanship, taste, presentation and timing. The students were allowed two hours to prepare and deliver their dishes

This year six students battled it out in an exciting and pressured final, all the time being judged by two experts in the field of competition work John Murray, a past lecturer at I.T.T and Max Heim President of the German Panel of Chefs. The six finalists, Gráinne Caplis, Michael Costello, Daniel Enright, Eoghan Reen, Padraig Hennessey and Keith Pigott had a restricted choice of ingredients from which to devise a menu worthy of impressing our world class judging team. Although competition was the name of the game, a fantastic sense camaraderie and teamwork was experienced during the event, which is testament to the professionalism of Max Heim, Keith Pigott & John Murray everyone involved.  The overall winner was Keith Pigott whose menu consisted of a â¿¿Black Pudding and Butternut Squash Risottoâ¿¿ for starter followed by a â¿¿Slow Roast Belly of Pork with Star Anise and Ginger, vanilla scented potato puree  and a cider vinegar reductionâ¿¿ as his main course. The competition was kindly sponsored by â¿¿Utensilsâ¿¿ of Tralee and Keith was presented with his prize by our two esteemed judges.

Chef Dan Browne organiser of the culinary challenge said this is a brilliant opportunity for talented young chefs to showcase their cooking skills and demonstrate their innate culinary creativity.  Irish diners are becoming much more adventurous in their food tastes, and this has been reflected in the growth of international cuisine in the Irish restaurant scene. With Irish restaurants experiencing difficult times as a result of the economic crises, Irish chefs will need to explore creative options to fulfill this challenge. The theme of this yearâ¿¿s contest is particularly pertinent to the current market climate and showcased the diversity of skills developed by I.T.Tâ¿¿s next generation of master chefs.

The winning dishes produced on the day