A Newcastle College student will be feeling the heat this week when he competes for the title of Junior Curry Chef of the Year in Bradford – the dish’s UK capital.
Seventeen-year-old Bobby Smail, from Houghton-le-Spring, is hoping to be crowned curry king with a dish he has been perfecting with help from chefs at Woosa Restaurant on Newcastle’s Clayton Street, where he has worked as part of his college placement.
Bobby who is studying a full time VRQ Level 2 Diploma in Professional Cookery at Newcastle College’s Lifestyle Academy is also being mentored by Hospitality Instructor Michael Dodds in readiness for the competition.
The Junior Curry Chef of the Year contest, which is being held on Tuesday April 3, was originally created in response to an unprecedented ‘curry crisis’, with many restaurants struggling to find authentic skilled chefs due to a tightening of immigration laws.
It is hoped that through the competition, young chefs will be encouraged to acquire the necessary skills it takes to produce the highest quality Indian cuisine and help bridge this gap.
Bobby said: “I’m really up for the challenge. I love this kind of cooking and it’s been a great experience trying to perfect the dish I am going to cook on the day with help from some really experienced mentors. Just the smallest touch can really make the difference between an average and a spectacular curry.
“The competition is going to be really fierce, but the skills I have learned at college and through my placement with Woosa Restaurant will stand me in good stead. I have a passion for cooking and love the complexity of Asian cuisine. I just hope that I can take everything that I have learned and use it on the day to produce a winning dish.”
Twice Michelin Starred chef, Atul Kochhar will be one of the judges that Bobby needs to impress. Atul was the first Indian chef to be awarded a Michelin Star in 2001 and received his second in 2007. He owns award-winning restaurants in London, Hampshire and Dublin.
Andy Brown, Team Leader for Hospitality at the Lifestyle Academy at Newcastle College, said: “It is very rewarding to see a student make it through to the final of such a prestigious national competition and we are supporting Bobby all of the way.
“Our staff can draw on their experiences of working in top class national and international restaurants and pass these skills on to our trainee chefs. We also have excellent links within the hospitality industry and work with employers to ensure that our students have experience of working in a commercial kitchen and finish the course with the skills required by industry. Bobby has been very fortunate to have the support of the team at Woosa Restaurant. They have taught him a great deal about fine international cuisine and the skills that are required to balance the demands of a busy kitchen and paying customers.”
The Lifestyle Academy at Newcastle College is one of only eight colleges in the country to be awarded a badge of excellence, from the National Skills Academy (NSA), for its Diploma in Professional Cookery courses.
Bobby will be competing against students from Bradford and London for the prestigious title. Competitors will be judged on skills demonstrated, hygiene and safe practices, originality and authenticity, taste and presentation.