Student Chefs Take Top Prize

A trio of student chefs from Colchester Institute are celebrating after winning the prestigious A Passion to Inspire competition for 2023.

Sophia Bearman, Stephanie Etherington and Jess Hornsby competed in the final, which took place at City College Norwich, against teams from five other regional colleges.

The winning menu included a starter of Baron Bigod, pea & asparagus tart, pea & truffle purée, followed by a main course of roasted rack of Dingley Dell pork, pommes Anna, roasted baby vegetables, black pudding stuffing, sauce Robert, and a dessert of passion-scented spheres, shortbread crumb, compressed mango and Verbena Spritz cocktail.

The impressed judging panel included Mark Poynton, Bradley Dorrington, Nick Mills, Greg Anderson, Eric Snaith, Buzz, Nick Claxton Webb and Ed Keith.

Founded by Murray Chapman in 2009, A Passion to Inspire is open to all students at any level, including front of house and kitchen. From its initial format as a competition, it has expanded to work with over 172 colleges. Initially developed to create stronger links between education and industry, the non-profit initiative works with colleges, Restaurateurs, Hoteliers, farmers, and top chefs to inspire, encourage and support students in their chosen careers.

As overall winners, the students will receive several fantastic prizes, including an invitation to meet culinary legend Marco Pierre White and other top chefs at the upcoming Skills For Chefs Conference and four places on a culinary adventure trip to Lyon courtesy of Grand Cuisine Academy.

The students were supported by lecturers Stephanie Conway, Stephen Frei, and Neil Bishop, along with their industry mentor Aaron Skerritt of Honey + Harvey, who were delighted with their achievements.

“Sophia, Stephanie and Jess showed great flair and enthusiasm on the day, competing against five outstanding teams and colleges.

Our entire hospitality team are immensely proud and honoured to have observed the growth and progress that they have made on their journey to victory.”

Renata East, Area Head for Hospitality and Salons Studies at the College, has high hopes for their next steps.

“Their determination and passion are a real credit to them and the staff that supported this event. Everyone is excited to see how their futures develop within the hospitality industry.”

Mentor Aaron praised their dedication.

“I thought they did themselves proud. It was a pleasure to mentor them – they took criticism, they took advice, and they used some real class initiative. The future is bright for them!”