Words by: Emily Jane Craft
The National Union of Students Green Fund has recently awarded Sheffield College, Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield almost £200 000 to join together to encourage student led food production and sustainability.
The ‘Sheffield on a plate’ project will span across two years and is geared towards promoting student cooking and increasing the amount of food donated to food banks.
The project kick-started this week with a ‘MasterChef’ competition between six Hallam University and six Sheffield University students, who cooked a six course meal for distinguished guests and catering experts at the Sheffield College ‘Sparks’ restaurant.
The students received five weeks training in preparation for the event by MasterChefs of Great Britain Neil Taylor and Mick Burke. The students learnt how to make meals using local, sustainable and affordable ingredients.
Project co-ordinator Tim Allen introduced the event on Tuesday. “This is the first of what we hope to be an annual MasterChef competition. This is the beginning of an exciting two year project where we are looking to break the Guinness World Record for having 5000 people eating soup at the same time, and will be working in partnership with Fareshare Yorkshire to raise money for local food banks.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg contacted the project voicing his support: “Apart from being a worthy cause, the event sounds like great fun. More people cooking quality locally sourced food is good for the environment, good for our health and good for local businesses. Therefore it is something we should all support. Good luck with your event!”
University of Sheffield students Daniel Hernandez and Monika Szczyrba made exquisite canapés for to start the event. Plating up five sets of canapés for around 70 guests, waiters offered round platters of tarts filled with cream and chive sauce, topped with salmon and caviar. The students also presented prunes and sundried tomatoes with vanilla pods and olive oil. Alongside this, guests were offered cheese tarts with caramelised onions, beef in clam sauce and miniature fishcakes with sweet chilli sauce and fresh lemon.
Guest’s appetites were well and truly whetted for Hallam University’s Yanying Zeng’s starting dish of smoked chicken, celeriac remoulade with a citrus dressing. Yanying had the daunting task of presenting the starters on her own, as her cooking partner Charlotte Huck unfortunately fell ill at the event. Luck and expert skill was on hand though, as all students were mentored by expert chefs in the kitchen who supported set pairs in the preparation of their dishes.
Medicine students from Sheffield University, Michael Andrews and Victoria Courticem, followed the smoked chicken with a venison consumee. The clear soup was presented in a narrow dish topped with a layer of poppy seeded pastry which emulating the appearance of a chef’s hat.
Hallam students Alice Game and Gabriel Paramore then wowed the guests with a seared mackerel nicoise, which included green beans, quails eggs, anchovies, capers and caramelised onions. Gabriel a fourth year International Business student said: “We were surprised to arrive at the kitchen earlier to find the mackerel fully intact. We have spent around three hours boning the fish removing the heads and getting really messy!”
The main dish of the evening was a true delight. Hallam journalism students Kelly Crampton and Kathy Davies, presented honey glazed pork belly, alongside a curry pork fillet, pureed swede with sea kale and mustard mash potato. The girls’ deep fried the skin of the pork to create their own crackling. The pork belly used in the dish was slow cooked for 30 hours prior to serving meaning the meat was very tender.
Sheffield University students Candice Munro and Ellie McCaldin closed the menu with a chocolate and candied chestnut tart, alongside honey roasted spiced pears and pistachio ice cream.
The eleven amateur chefs were then held in suspense as Rupert Rowley, the head chef from Michelin starred restuaurant Fischers in Baslow Hall, told guests that the winning team would be invited along to his restaurant for a day’s work experience in the kitchen.
“Today has been great; I have really enjoyed the evening. The key thing I was looking for was the level of involvement in the kitchen. It was great seeing everyone get stuck in and projects like this are so important for the development of the catering industry.” Rupert Rowley
“I am proud of my industry and engaging people in cooking is so important, whether it’s kids cooking rice krispie cakes at school, or people being taught fine dining, making people more aware of what they’re eating and where it’s come from is key to improving British cuisine.”
“I judged the food on various criteria such as the taste and the flavour, but the dish that really stood out for me tonight was the pork. For that reason I announce Sheffield Hallam University as the winning team of the Master-chef competition!”
For more information about the Sheffield on a Plate project and future events visit: www.sheffieldonaplate.com