Northern Regional College in Ballymoney has landed itself a top catch after winning a celebrity backed cook-off in honour of Seafood Week.
The Big College Seafood Cook-Off, held at Mourne Seafood Bar and Cookery School in Belfast, was hailed as a celebration of the local seafood industry and set up to inspire future generations to cook more often using seafood.
Six catering colleges from across Northern Ireland took part in a seafood masterclass with a host of top local chefs who were then on hand to provide mentoring as the teams went head to head to produce a series of seafood dishes.
Notable culinary stars from the day included Andy Rea, Stephen Jeffers and Wayne Carville of the Mourne Seafood Bar and Cookery School, while Danny Millar of Balloo Inns, Paula McIntyre of Radio Ulster and Raymond McArdle of Maisons Restaurant were also in attendance. Each of the six chefs mentored a college to prepare a seafood dish using locally caught products.
Winning students Cameron Ashcroft and Racheal Finch, mentored by Chef Wayne Carville from Mourne Seafood, landed first place with a pan fried plaice with braised lentils, pancetta and vegetables. Judges praised their excellent workflow and preparation and the meld of flavours.
Racheal said: “I’m so happy that we’ve won. It was a bit overwhelming at first but it was great surprise to come first. We didn’t know what chef we would be working with until we got here but it was great to work with Wayne. We had a difficult dish but we learnt loads from him.”
Dr Lynn Gilmore, Northern Ireland Manager at Seafish who organised the event for Seafood Week, highlighted the benefits of encouraging local talent to cook using seafood.
She said: “It’s fantastic to see great local talent using great local ingredients such Dublin Bay prawns, plaice, mackerel and crab, while also promoting the many health benefits of seafood.
“The fishing industry in Northern Ireland has a very strong presence and we hope the cook-off event, and Seafood Week in general, will help to inspire people to use seafood more often.”
The seafood banquet was served at a lunch attended by seafood industry representatives, local foodies, hoteliers and guests with a shared passion for seafood.
Colleges competed to win a series of coveted awards as part of the cook-off including Best College, Best Individual College Chef and The Seafish Seafood Award for Most Knowledgeable Student.