Big School Cook Off finalists reveal countrywide talent

After intense deliberation of over 120 entries from post primary schools across the country, the shortlist for the Mount Charles Big School Cook Off in association with the Irish News and Business in the Community has been announced.

The first stage of the competition tasked entrants to submit a recipe and accompanying photo for a starter, main course or dessert with consideration to creativity, health and the use of locally sourced produce.

Regional heats will take place across the country over the next fortnight to determine the schools that will make it to the grand final in June, in a maximum of one per county.

The finalists for the regional heats, where all entrants will cook from the same recipe and set of ingredients, are as follows:

  • Ashfield Boys’ High School
  • Blackwater Integrated College
  • Ballymoney High School
  • Cullybackey College
  • Down High School
  • Drumglass High School
  • Lismore Comprehensive School
  • Our Lady & St Patrick’s College
  • Rainey Endowed School
  • Scoil Mhuire Milford
  • St Catherine’s College
  • St Cecilia’s College
  • St Ciaran’s College
  • St Colman’s College
  • St Columb’s College
  • St Dominic’s Grammar School
  • St Genevieve’s High School
  • St Joseph’s High School
  • St Mary’s College
  • St Patrick’s College, Bearnageeha
  • St Ronan’s College

Leann Duffy, Group Director of Catering at Mount Charles said: “We were blown away by both the level of interest and the quality of the entries from across Northern Ireland and Donegal. I don’t want to give too much away about the individual entries, but there were some that wouldn’t be out of place on the menu at any good local restaurant!

“Clearly there’s a lot of interest in cooking and healthy eating amongst young people, which is really great to see. With so many entries it was a tough job to reach the shortlist, but with that job done we now can’t wait to see how our finalists get on at the regional heats.

“All that remains to say is good luck to all of the participants, cook your heart out and above all, enjoy yourselves!”

Irish News Marketing Manager John Brolly added: “The Irish News would like to thank all the schools and students who took time to enter as the standard of entry was simply inspiring in terms of level of detail.

“It just shows the passionate interest there is for food and cooking among students, their imagination and knowledge was amazing and all finalists should be very proud they made it to the next stage.”

The county finals will be judged on the day, with the winner from each county going forward to cook their original recipe submission at a grand finale event in June.

Each county winning team will receive £200 of vouchers for their school and a masterclass in cookery from Mount Charles Group Development Chef, Simon Toye, previously Executive Chef at the Michelin-starred Deanes restaurant in Belfast.

The overall winning team at the grand final will win £300 of vouchers for their school as well as a treat for their family, with a meal at the award winning George’s of The Market restaurant and family tickets to see the Belfast Giants ice hockey team at the SSE Arena.