THE finalists of a competition to find the region's own young Masterchef came head-to-head in a tense final at Havering College.
FOUR talented teenage chefs took a panel of judges on a gastronomic world tour as the college's annual hunt for a young chef with the qualities to carve out a career in catering came to a conclusion.
Drapers Academy pupil Sophie Ferrier, Sophia Negri, 13, from Brentwood County High School and Sacred Heart of Mary pupils Holly Fay, 16, and Anneliese McAlpin, 16, cooked Indian curries, a Moroccan tagine and Japanese Teriyaki in a bid to impress the highly respected international chef Paul Gayler MBE, and Glenn Norman, head chef at the Brentwood restaurant Masons.
Romford Recorder journalists Hayley Anderson and Harriet Orrell assisted as guest tasting judges.
After much chopping, stirring, grilling and frying, it was time to crown the winner with 15-year-old Sophie clinching the title of Havering and Brentwood Schools Young Chef of the Year 2015.
Sophie, who has enrolled to study Professional Cookery at Havering College this September, said: "I am so excited – I never expected to win."
Her mum Kriisy Ferrier said: "I am over the moon and so proud. Sophie has been encouraged by wonderful teachers at her school. It's a fantastic achievement."
Paul Gayler and Glenn Norman heaped praise on all four candidates saying "it had been a difficult decision".
Paul – retired executive chef of the Lanesborough Hotel at Hyde Park Corner - said: "Havering College is one of the finest places to learn catering and hospitality. I am lucky to judge competitions all over the world but I can honestly say this one for young cooks in this area is one of my yearly favourites. It never fails to amaze me and this year is no exception. To find yourself in a professional kitchen environment is daunting. Among the things we look for are accurate cooking and a real understanding of how the whole dish comes together. I think you have all done a fantastic job."
Glenn said: "It is such as inspiration to see young people cooking to such a high standard – I would happily put some of their food on my menu."
This is the ninth year of the Havering College Young Chef of the Year Competition which is aimed at pupils in Years 9-11 at schools in Havering and Brentwood. Initial heats are held in the schools with the semi-finals and finals taking place in the Hospitality and Catering training facility at the Havering College Quarles Campus in Harold Hill.
Supporters, who included the pupils' Food Technology teachers and families, watched the action live thanks to a live video link filmed by two of the college's BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma Media students, Matt Alexander and Luke Hughes.
After the cooking, all involved enjoyed a three course dinner prepared and served by the college's Hospitality and Catering students in the on-site Jubilee Restaurant.
Havering College Head of School for Hospitality, Sport and Public Services Mark Smithers said: "The aim of Young Chef is to get young people involved and passionate about cooking. Year on year the standard gets higher."
The Jubilee Restaurant is open to the public. For table reservations call the Restaurant Manager on 01708 462886.