July 2021

Trainee chef can't wait for Ritz stage after winning competition judged by Great British Menu champ

By Melanie Hall

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Read time: approx 4 mins

A young student chef from Solihull has won the chance to work under executive chef John Williams MBE and his team at The Ritz in London in a competition judged by a BBC Great British Menu champ at University College Birmingham.

Eighteen-year-old Finlay Ladbrooke couldn't believe it when it was announced he had won a five-day stage at the renowned five-star hotel, as well as a cheque for £250, after being crowned victor of the first Student Recipe Challenge in tribute to University College Birmingham's former principal Eddie McIntyre CBE and designed to inspire young chefs as the industry recovers from the pandemic.  

Omavi Robinson and Jordan Johnson were also thrilled to win joint second place, each winning a cheque for £175.

"I now feel much more positive about the future – and I've got a real buzz for competing"

Finlay Ladbrooke Level 3 Professional Cookery | Winner of Eddie McIntyre Award Student Recipe Challenge 2021

Finlay said: "It's absolutely brilliant. Nerve-wracking, but brilliant. I can't wait.

"I had done a knife skills competition before, but this was the first cooking competition I had been in – I was totally surprised when they said I had won.  

"In lockdown, even though the lecturers were really, really supportive and encouraging, it was hard to get motivated to wake up, switch on the computer and learn online. But I now feel much more positive about the future – and I've got a real buzz for competing."

At the training kitchens at the Summer Row campus, the eight finalists were tasked with preparing and serving a globe artichoke heart cooked in a blanc, filled with a mushroom duxelle, topped with a soft poached egg and coated with a hollandaise sauce, followed by a tarte au citron with crème Chantilly. They had no prior notice and had to prepare everything from scratch.

Stuart Collins, owner of Docket No. 33 as featured in the Michelin Guide and winner of the Great British Menu's Central Region, took up the mantle of head judge for the competition, open to students on University College Birmingham’s NVQ in Professional Cookery college course.

Crucially, Stuart, who made the last two in the starter category of the Great British Menu finals, himself trained at University College Birmingham 20 years ago and wanted to show students that the industry can not only recover, but thrive, post-pandemic.

In pictures: Eddie McIntyre Award Student Recipe Challenge 2021

The Student Chef Recipe Challenge is the first Eddie McIntyre Award, paying homage to University College Birmingham’s former head, who passed away after a long illness last October. Eddie was not only the youngest principal of a UK further education college when he took charge, but was an award-winning chef himself. 

The first, paper-entry part of the competition tasked students with producing a recipe suited to the lunch menu at the on-site training restaurant, Restaurant at Birmingham College of Food, which is open to the public and holds an AA Highly Commended College Rosette. 

It needed to focus on good flavour combinations and, where possible, students had to use seasonal, local, British produce with ingredients costing no more than £6. 

All eight finalists received a personalised chef’s jacket, Japanese chef knife and a framed certificate.

University College Birmingham is a world-renowned provider of specialist training courses for the food and hospitality industries, offering industry-standard kitchen and restaurant facilities to support development and extensive industry placements with prestigious partners around the world.

Find out more about our range of courses within Birmingham College of Food here.

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