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West Suffolk College trio crowned champions of Country Range Student Chef Challenge 2024





Three learners from West Suffolk College have been crowned winners of a national student chef contest.

Paulina Litwin, Libby Thistleton and Cecille Youngs were named champions of the Country Range Student Chef Challenge 2024 following a finale at the HRC Show at Excel in London last month.

The three young student chefs were competing against teams from Loughborough College, Cornwall College, New College Durham and Westminster Kingsway and astounded the judges with their creative, on-brief and flavour-driven menu.

The West Suffolk College winning student team, left to right Cecille, Paulina and Libby. Picture: Supplied by Country Range Group
The West Suffolk College winning student team, left to right Cecille, Paulina and Libby. Picture: Supplied by Country Range Group

Under the watchful eyes of the judges and a buzzing live theatre audience, the students recreated their three-course, four-cover menu within 90 minutes.

The theme for this year’s competition was Love Local and challenged the teams to discover and showcase the best of their local area.

In addition to competing for the Country Range Student Chef Challenge title, all the finalists were also graded by the International Salon Culinaire to international judging standards with Gold, Silver, Bronze and Merit certificates awarded.

The winning main. Picture: Supplied by Country Range Group
The winning main. Picture: Supplied by Country Range Group

West Suffolk College received ‘Gold Best in Class’.

Its winning menu consisted of:

•Starter: beetroot four-way tart – a savoury tart case filled with Ellingham goat’s cheese, beetroot gel, roasted beetroot, pickled beetroot and fresh sliced beetroot;

Main: panseared seabass with cauliflower puree, sweated leeks, Brancaster mussels in beurre blanc, pickled shimejis and potato rosti;

•Dessert: choux bun with chocolate craquelin on chocolate sauce filled with marsala mascarpone cream, coffee caramel, topped with coffee and white chocolate ganache and toasted hazelnuts.

As well as claiming the prestigious Country Range Student Chef Challenge title, the trio from West Suffolk College, based in Bury St Edmunds, also won a unique dining experience and opportunity to work at a Michelin-starred restaurant, plus a professional knife.

The West Suffolk College winning student team with Chris Basten and Stuart Ascott. Picture: Supplied by Country Range Group
The West Suffolk College winning student team with Chris Basten and Stuart Ascott. Picture: Supplied by Country Range Group

Speaking after the victory, Cecille said: “We’re honestly still in shock after the win and it really hasn’t sunk in yet.

“We’re just so happy. We didn’t really expect to win but we were delighted with the way we worked together and the dishes we put out.

“Just to know we showed off our technique, skill, coped in front of the judges and live audience, plus worked within the time limits, will give us a huge confidence boost moving forward.”

The additional time, hard work and commitment invested in the winning team by lecturer Stuart Ascott, didn’t go unnoticed, as he received his own engraved Flint and Flame knife set.

He said: “I’m so proud of the girls and overjoyed for them. They were so calm and collected in front of the judges and live audience and they worked brilliantly together as a team throughout.

“The dishes they plated up looked exceptional and the judges obviously agreed that they had great flavour as well.

“They all have big aspirations and with the boost this will give them, they’re definitely three young chefs to keep a close eye on.”

Lead judge Chris Basten, from the Craft Guild of Chefs, said once again the standard in the Country Range Student Chef Challenge Grand Final was incredibly high.

“A huge congratulations to West Suffolk College who blew us all away with their teamwork skills, well-thought out menu, precision plating and, most importantly, terrific flavour,” he said.

West Suffolk College Country Range Student Chef Challenge winners Libby Thistleton, Paulina Litwin and Cecille Youngs. Picture: Supplied by Country Range Group
West Suffolk College Country Range Student Chef Challenge winners Libby Thistleton, Paulina Litwin and Cecille Youngs. Picture: Supplied by Country Range Group

The challenge focuses on testing the essential core skills and techniques that culinary students are taught in college and is carefully designed in line with the NVQ syllabus to assess both classical and modern cooking techniques.

Country Range Group is made up of 13 independent wholesalers and also provides over 700 products, all developed exclusively for professional caterers under the Country Range brand.