Future Chef Olivia has the right recipe for success

Ballymena Academy pupil Olivia Drain has been named as one of five finalists who will progress to the Northern Ireland finals of Springboard’s FutureChef competition.

Olivia competed at her regional heat where she and her peers were under the scrutiny of competition mentor and Henderson Foodservice Business Development Chef, Geoff Baird, and professional chef and judge Chris Bell who method-checked and taste-tested the students’ cooking to crown Olivia the winner. Chris will now mentor Olivia as she prepares for the Northern Ireland Finals in February.

Geoff Baird says Olivia’s dish of Chicken and Pancetta on Lentils had everything they were looking for to progress to the next stage of the competition: “Olivia’s dish was very well considered. Not only was she thinking about flavours and presentation, but also about provenance and sustainability, ensuring local produce was a part of her dish and she was using as much of her ingredients as possible to reduce any waste.

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“I’ve been privileged to be part of the mentoring team of Chefs for the FutureChef competition in Northern Ireland, and the students have been so eager to learn everything from preparation, menu design and how to work in a kitchen as well as their options for a career in hospitality and expanding their skills with Springboard’s programmes to increase their employability.”

FutureChef competition finalist Olivia Drain from Ballymena Academy is pictured with mentor Chef Chris Bell, plus Caitriona Lennox from Springboard and Geoff Baird, Business Development Chef at Henderson Foodservice, sponsors of the competition. Olivia won her regional heat and will now progress to the NI Finals in February under the mentorship of Chef Chris, where celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli will be Head Judge.

FutureChef is Springboard’s flagship educational programme which sits alongside a wide range of employability programmes designed for young people to help build their employability and soft skills, while giving them the confidence to kickstart a career in hospitality.

As part of its mission to nurture young talent and promote hospitality as a great place to work, Springboard is aiming to get 10,000 young people trained, ready and into work by December 2022 through its Springboard to 2022 initiative.

Caitriona Lennox, NI Manager at Springboard said; “Olivia is such a worthy finalist and really wowed our judges with her work and passion for delivering a great plate of food. All young chefs competing in our regional heats have been a joy to watch in the kitchen, and see their ideas come to life. We are wishing Olivia all the best of luck at our Northern Ireland finals in February, where, if she wins, could represent Northern Ireland at the UK-wide FutureChef final in London in March.”

Celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli will be the Head Judge for the NI Final of the competition at Belfast Met. on February 10.