New College students challenged by Rotary Club Cooking Competition

25 Jun 2021

On June 18th this year, Hospitality and Catering students from New College Swindon, took part in the annual Rotary Club Cooking competition.

This is the eight time this long-standing annual event has taken place, albeit in a slightly delayed, revised and socially distanced format for this year.

This competition has become a key enrichment activity for the hospitality and catering team at the College, and is the perfect opportunity for the students to show what they have learned with the added experience of a competitive element not normally found in a kitchen environment.

Each year, the teams of trainee chefs are asked to incorporate certain ingredients or characteristics for the dishes and this year was no exception. The competition brief was to produce a three course, fine dining menu for two, that included meat in the starter, while the main course was to be vegetarian, and the dessert had to incorporate pear and pastry.

Taking part were 10 teams of 3, who had just 2 hours to cook up a storm, before presenting their tables to the judges.

Students started cooking at 9:30am and had to be ready to serve at 11.30am.

Lesley Holdship, Curriculum Manager for Hospitality said

“Its great that we have been able to put this competition back on the menu again. I know the students look forward to the extra spice that the competition adds to the kitchens. It gives them a taste of the added pressure that you can get when working in a team as part of a commercial kitchen.”

Ian Robinson is the competition organiser from The Rotary Club of Swindon Thamesdown and says,

“We have been running this competition for several years now with the College, and it’s a great opportunity for the students to see what it's like working as a team and learning how to cope with pressured situations. It’s an enrichment activity for the students and a key experience for them.”

The Rotary organisation has around 45,000 members in over 1,700 clubs in Great Britain and Ireland who volunteer their time and talents to tackle challenges at home and abroad in various cause areas including:

  • Promoting Peace
  • Fighting Disease
  • Providing Clean Water
  • Supporting Education
  • Saving Mothers and Children
  • Growing Local Economies
  • Supporting the Environment.

Steve Davison and Chris Ockwell from The Rotary and retired chef and lecturer, Steve Matthews, who worked with the College for over 20 years, made up the panel of judges, scoring the dishes considering aspects such as presentation and style, originality, technical difficulty, and, of course, taste.

Steve said,

“It was a great experience for the students to express themselves on a plate of food where they can demonstrate their skills.”

Selecting the winners, the judges all commented on the level of skill and creativity that was on display, and all recognised the additional difficulties of working in facemasks while trying to remain distanced from other teams.

Judging took pace at a simulated restaurant tables while the teams looked on

Winners and Food

All the winners are presented with a certificate, a £50 voucher and a professional chef’s knife, all provided by The Rotary.

Third place Level 2 was awarded to Isabelle Sheahan and Amelia Rollinson

Second Place Level 3 was awarded to Mei Petherick, Harry Churches and Warren Thompson

“The dish I produced was very good and I am very proud of what I produced.” - Warren Thompson

“The entire experience was lovely and the teamwork represented helped me to work with different people.” - Harry Churches

Their menu included:

Vegetable platter on a butternut squash puree by Mei Petherick and a pear tart made jointly by Mei and Warren.

And 1st place Level 2 winners were - Lily Curtis, Elena Dagleish and Jack Gooding


3rd Place Level 2 Isabelle Sheahan And Amelia Rollinson
2nd Place Level 3 Mei Petherick Harry Churches And Warren Thompson
1st Place Level 2 Lily Curtis Elena Dagleish And Jack Gooding
Vegetable platter on a butternut squash puree
pear tart made jointly by Mei and Warren
Butternut squash curry, basmati rice and homemade naan
Chicken and chorizo samosa by Anthony Northcott-Rendell
Deconstructed Pear and Almond Tart