UCB Young Chef of the Year

September 2017

University College Birmingham is calling on talented young cooks to enter its annual Young Chef of the Year competition.


maple ycoy


The pupils with the best menus will get to prepare their dishes for a panel of expert judges in exciting cook-offs at the university’s world-renowned College of Food.

Some amazing prizes are on offer and competitors will benefit from first-hand feedback and tips from top chefs and cookery lecturers.

This year the winner of the 2018 UCB Young Chef of the Year will scoop a new iPad Pro and their school will receive vouchers worth £500 for cookery equipment.

The competition, now in its second year, is being run in partnership with The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers through its brand Maple Products from Quebec. Quebec produces 71% of the world’s supply of maple syrup.

To reflect the exciting partnership, entrants will have to use the 100% pure, natural sweetener as an ingredient in one of the two courses they enter for the competition, which is open to all Year 10 and Year 11 pupils, aged 14 to 16.

Young chefs can be put forward by their school – or they can enter independently. All entries must be submitted online. (Please see details below.)

There are three stages to the competition. The first step is to complete an online entry via UCB’s website.

Pupils have to outline a two-course meal for two people, comprising a hot main dish and a hot, or cold, dessert. Entrants must use pure maple syrup in one of the two dishes, either for the main course or the dessert.

For savoury dishes, maple syrup can be used for a tasty, sticky marinade or give a new take on a meal-time favourite incorporating meat and fish, or vegetarian options. Maple syrup is also a great ingredient for desserts; for example, in a sauce, for baking or as a natural sugar substitute. For some culinary inspiration, go to www.welovemaple.co.uk

The total budget for the meal for two (including the main course and the dessert) is £10. The budget is a guideline to ensure fairness, so competitors should not worry if they go a little over, or under, budget.

To help competitors price their meals, UCB has provided some guidance on calculating food costs on its website. There is also information about the judging criteria – as well as the competition terms and conditions.

All online entries must be submitted by Tuesday, November 14. UCB is unable to return entries so pupils should keep a copy of the information for future reference. 

Members of UCB’s Culinary Team and Birmingham-based chef David Colcombe, UK chef ambassador for The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, will judge the online entries. Successful candidates will then be invited to cook their menus in a semi-final at UCB on Saturday, December 9. Full instructions will be provided to successful candidates.

For the semi-final, competitors will have to produce their hot main dish and dessert (as outlined in their entry), for two diners, in 90 minutes. The main course can be served after one hour. All cooking costs up to £10 (incurred on the day of the cook-off) will be reimbursed.

The semi-final will be judged by a team of UCB competition food experts and Chef Colcombe, who is a Visiting Professor of Culinary Arts at UCB. The successful finalists will be announced on the UCB website and contacted via email a few days after the cook-off.

The grand final will be held at UCB on Saturday, January 20, 2018 when the total food budget will be increased to £15. Chefs will be asked to recreate their original dishes, which they can modify with new ingredients. Crucially, one of the dishes must again feature maple syrup, just like the semi-final. All cooking costs (incurred on the day of the cook-off) will be reimbursed up to £15.

The inaugural 2017 competition was won by Emily Humphreys, then aged 16, of Kings Norton Girls School, Birmingham, who cooked a cranberry-glazed chicken breast and a chocolate shell containing a chocolate mousse and Genoise sponge.

Neil Rippington, Dean of the College of Food, said: “The UCB Young Chef of the Year competition is a great way of getting young people involved in practical cookery. We saw some highly innovative dishes last year, reflecting a great range of techniques and cultural influences.

“The competition can be used by schools as a fantastic learning exercise and we would encourage teachers and pupils to make the most of this fantastic opportunity.”

Chef Colcombe said: “Maple Products from Quebec is delighted to be involved with the UCB Young Chef of the Year competition. Maple syrup is a wonderful, pure ingredient, with lots of interesting, tasty and ethnically diverse culinary usages for savoury dishes and desserts. I can’t wait to see how young chefs incorporate maple syrup in their menus.

“Cookery teaches young people valuable skills that stay with them for life and UCB has an impeccable record for nurturing top culinary talent. That is why the partnership between UCB and Maple Products from Quebec for the Young Chef of the Year competition makes perfect sense.”

All this year’s cook-offs will be held at UCB’s competition kitchens, which are used by professional chefs for the country’s most high-profile culinary contests. The semi-final and final are held on Saturdays to ensure school teaching time is not interrupted.

UCB and Maple Products from Quebec will be unveiling its panel of judges for the grand final in forthcoming weeks.

The competition is open to all young chefs in the West Midlands, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire and the East Midlands. Entries are invited from aspiring chefs from further afield but all competitors invited to the cook-offs are responsible for their travel arrangements and related costs.

Any questions about the competition should be sent by email to: chefs@ucb.ac.uk




  • iPad Pro
  • Winner's trophy
  • UCB/Maple Products from Quebec professional chef jacket

  • Winner’s school receives £500 of vouchers for kitchen equipment


  • £150 Love2Shop vouchers

  • UCB/Maple Products from Quebec professional chef jacket

  • School wins £300 of vouchers for kitchen equipment


  • £100 Love2Shop vouchers

  • UCB/Maple Products from Quebec professional chef jacket

  • School wins £200 of vouchers for kitchen equipment

  • All finalists win a UCB/Maple Products from Quebec branded chef jacket.