Does your school have the next Jamie Oliver in its midst?

Mount Charles launches the Big School Cook Off for post-primary schools

Mount Charles, one of the UK and Ireland’s leading foodservice companies has launched an exciting competition for budding chefs in post-primary schools.

Running in association with the Irish News and supported by Business in the Community, the Mount Charles Big School Cook Off is a great new initiative to encourage pupils between Year 8 and Year 10 to get interested in cooking healthy and creative dishes, with a focus on quality local ingredients.

The competition, which is open to schools in every county in Northern Ireland and Donegal, asks schools to nominate a team of two to submit a recipe for either a starter, main course or dessert (just one), that is creative and that considers the use of locally sourced ingredients.

The judging panel will shortlist the recipes and the successful finalists will take part in a county heat against other schools, where each cooking duo will be given the same ingredients and recipe to follow.

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.

Leann Duffy, Group Director of Catering at Mount Charles said:

“We’re really excited to announce our first ever nationwide schools’ cookery competition.

“For the past four years we ran a similar contest called Kitchen Whizz Kids for schools in greater Belfast but we recognised there was massive scope to roll it out and bring it to a much wider audience, hence the creation of the Mount Charles Big School Cook Off.

“We’d love to see as many as six schools shortlisted from each county; in fact we think the competition at those heats might be fiercer than the final, what school wouldn’t like to be named the champion of their county!

“The objectives behind the competition are clear; it’s about giving young people an opportunity to enhance their cookery skills, to develop an appreciation for the wonderful quality of our local produce, and to promote important values such as teamwork and attention to detail.

“It’s also an opportunity for us to help educate young people about possible careers in hospitality. There’s a skills shortage within the industry and this is one of the ways in which we’re trying to ensure a continued stream of new talent,” she added.

Irish News Marketing Manager John Brolly added, “We are looking for school pupils to slice, dice and cook their way through a number of challenges so that they can walk away as winner of the Big School Cook Off.

“It is an excellent initiative by Mount Charles to get young people to take an interest in food which is such an important part of a healthy lifestyle.”

To enter or for more information visit The deadline for entering is strictly noon on 10th March.