Cooking competitions are now an annual feature on the Curriculum Enrichment calendar for Denbighshire schools.
The competitions are a successful collaboration between Denbighshire Healthy Schools and Curriculum Enrichment initiatives. A boost to self-esteem is one of the benefits of taking part in the annual cookery contest. Competitors experience a sense of achievement, as well as demonstrating a greater interest in cooking. The students’ new-found confidence and skills are also noted by their parents and teachers. An evaluation of the competition’s pilot in 2015 found the children had a greater awareness of healthy eating, local food produce and cooking to a budget.
Each year, the competitions are based on popular themes or topics. In its inaugural year, the competition was based on ‘Patagonia’, as a celebration of the 150 year anniversary since the Welsh first settled there. In 2016, its second successful year, ‘Dahlicious’ celebrated the centenary of the birth of Roald Dahl; and in 2017, the theme is ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, in honour of the 20th Anniversary publication of J. K. Rowling’s debut novel. The competitions tie in with a whole host of other curriculum enrichment opportunities and activities provided by Denbighshire Education and Children’s Services.
The exciting competitions have been made available to primary, secondary and special schools. Typically, three rounds are hosted for primary schools, with the first round being hosted and judged by individual schools; the second round being a regional one; and the third being the final Denbighshire round. For secondary and special schools, only a school round and a final round is hosted.
The second and final rounds have been supported by the Denbighshire School Meals Service, who has helped judge the pupils’ culinary skills and their creative masterpieces. School Meals Managers and Cooks have taken up these roles with enthusiasm and themed school meals days have also been introduced and proved popular, complementing curriculum enrichment activities and events.
Our competitions have proved successful due to an on-going partnership with Denbigh High School, who host several rounds of the competition, judge and have helped develop the recipes and competition briefs. We are also very fortunate to have valued and continued support from Graham Tinsley MBE, Consulting Celebrity chef, who provides us with judging and culinary master classes for pupils. Our competitions are also successful due to sponsorship and the support of several local businesses for prizes and judging.
An example from one of our competitions: in Round 1 of the secondary school ‘Patagonia’ competition, the young chefs were required to create a potato or pasta based main course with at least one of the following traditional Welsh ingredients – locally sourced Welsh lamb, locally sourced Welsh beef, locally sourced organic chicken, leeks and Welsh cheeses and the entire ingredients were not to total more than £3.50 per person.
The dishes created by the pupils ranged from Lamb Hot Pot, Cottage Pie, Chicken, Bacon and Leek Pasta with Herby Flat Bread, Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Bake, Welsh Lamb Hot Pot, Beef Bolognaise & Stuffed Peppers, Beef Bolognaise and Chicken Linguini.
The culinary standards set by Denbighshire pupils are always extremely high.