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​​LIT student Jill stirs up a culinary treat to claim Knorr Student Chef of the Year

An LIT student has stirred up a real culinary success after being crowned KNORR Student Chef of the Year 2015 after a thrilling cook off hosted by Belfast Metropolitan College at its state-of-the-art Titantic Quarter Campus.

Jill Holmes, who graduated with a BA in Computer Systems and a Masters in Interactive Media before returning to LIT to study Culinary Arts in 2013, not alone had to overcome a challenging theme set out by KNORR but also had to fight off the challenge of 14 other rising stars to claim the top prize.
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She will now travel to Copenhagen, which is the driving force behind the Nordic food movement, for a trip that centres on a dining experience at Noma, which was voted Best Restaurant in the World by Restaurant Magazine in four of the last five years, along with a bespoke workshop hosted by the Nordic Food Lab.

Celebrating its 18th year in 2015, KNORR Student Chef of the Year, the most celebrated student chef competition, is open to catering colleges, institutes of technology and training centres across the island of Ireland.

Said a delighted Jill,

“The course is fantastic and I have learned so much from the lecturers who teach there especially my lecturer Jim O’Meara, who prepared me for the competition. He was integral to my success in the competition and was so generous with his time and expertise.

“I will finish the course this May after which I hope to start my PhD in September which will be based on a restaurant of the future combining my two passions in life, food and technology.”

Dr. Catriona Murphy, Head of Food & Tourism at LIT said,

“Jill is an excellent student and promises to be a top class chef and the department is very proud of her. Her hard work and determination really paid off and I want to acknowledge the consistent support and commitment of lecturers in helping Jill achieve this wonderful award.”

Food provenance and sustainability were the orders of the day at the competition, with the student chef finalists challenged with creating a vegetarian starter and Irish beef main course.

The judging panel, led by Unilever Food Solutions’ Executive Chef Mark McCarthy with top chef and restaurateur Mark Sargeant and chef lecturer at Belfast Met Thomas Turley, were looking for the student that was best able to showcase local ingredients and produce, while also successfully marrying strong food waste management techniques and an appreciation of the new allergen legislation.

Jill wowed the judging panel with her starter ‘Beet and Cheese’, which consisted of whipped goats cheese, hazelnut granola, coriander pickled vegetables and goats milk paper. Jill followed this with her stand-out main course ‘Top to Tail’ that included beef cheek and oxtail horseradish ravioli, filet Mignon, tartare butter, dauphine potatoes and baked vegetables. The judges praised Jill for the integrity of her dishes, specifically the authenticity of the ingredients she used.

Speaking at the awards presentation, Mark McCarthy said:

“The KNORR Student Chef of the Year competition is an ideal platform for the country’s brightest talents to not only demonstrate their culinary flair and talent, but to also develop new skills that are certain to serve them well as they embark on what I am confident will be long, successful careers.

“The greatest challenge for everyone in the foodservice industry, and indeed those starting out, is that it constantly changes. This is why we ask our student chef finalists to not only think about the story behind their dishes, but to also tackle some of the current issues that are facing the industry, whether this is cutting down on food waste in the kitchen or meeting legislation changes. I’m happy to report that all our students created wonderful menus this year, while also meeting our challenge excellently. I feel inspired and confident that the future of our foodservice industry is in safe hands.”

This year, top chef and restaurateur Mark Sargeant joined the judging panel as special guest judge. Mark is a former Chef of the Year (1996), National Chef of the Year (UK, 2002) and was Gordon Ramsey’s right-hand man for 13 years during which time he won a Michelin star as head chef of the Gordon Ramsey at Claridges in London. ​

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