Seeking chefs to be proud of

The Borders can be proud of the young talent cooking away in its kitchens – and now the hunt is on to crown the best, as entries open for the 2012 Scottish Borders Junior Chef Challenge, a contest to champion our outstanding food, talent and restaurants.

The tournament aims to boost young chefs’ careers and confidence, to test their skills to create, cost and cook their own menus, to inspire them to learn new cooking techniques, and to raise their profile in the Borders.

All the participating chefs will benefit from having their menus, profiles and restaurants promoted in The Southern Reporter, and in a recipe book printed for the competition. Readers will also be encouraged to visit the eateries to taste and judge the competing chefs’ dishes in a public vote.

The first competition, last year, crowned 26-year-old Selkirk chef Johnny Streets as winner, and attracted eight excellent entrants from Eyemouth to Peebles, who were judged on their own three-course meal from local, seasonal ingredients.

This year the competition organisers are hoping to hail more of the promising local talent, and give them more opportunities to showcase their skills – including cook-offs judged by Michelin-starred and celebrity chefs.

An entry form, detailing information about the competition, is in the post to Border restaurants, but if you have not received your form and want to take part, please email borderschefchallenge@gmail.com. The deadline is Monday August 6.

Organiser Will Haegeland of Selkirk’s County Hotel said: “To qualify for entry, you must be working or have access to a professional kitchen and commercial dining room and/or be a chef, apprentice, student or trainee in professional cookery with no more than four years professional cookery experience.

“You need to submit a two-course menu and detailed costed recipes for a main course and a starter or desert. The main ingredients need to be based on Scottish Borders local, seasonal produce. Your menu should be written up in the way you would like to present it to potential guests. You therefore need to consider how to communicate to guests in a way that makes them want to buy your dishes.

“Your whole menu cannot exceed £4.50 in total cost. You need to calculate a price for each of your dishes that give you a 70 per cent gross profit.

“Your dishes should be put on the menu at your place of work and be sold to real customers. Your line manager can set a sales price for the dishes that they find suitable.

“The customers will be part of voting for your dish. You will be issued with a voting form. The voting will take place over a set period of time. You will be informed about this period by the judges.

“The first step is an interview, where you will be able to meet all the other contestants. This will take place at a central location in the Borders. Throughout the six eliminations and judgments, you will be asked to come up with new dishes, make changes to your initial menu and to take part in a two-team cook-off session and participation in the Selkirk ‘From Plant to Plate’ food festival on September 2. The teams will be judged by a visiting celebrity chef.

“The final winner will be announced after a final cook off by the finalists at the Peebles Food Festival on October 26. Visiting Michelin star celebrity chefs will take part in judging the finals.

“The judges wish you all good luck, and look forward to tasting what you can do!”