Catering students at The Sheffield College celebrate Zest Quest Asia win

13th March 2024

Catering students at The Sheffield College have won the trip of a lifetime after being crowned the winners of a national culinary competition.

Beth Brewster, Joe Defries and Phoebe Tuttle have won Zest Quest Asia 2024 and a week-long trip to New Delhi in India.

The students impressed by creating an ambitious Filipino-inspired menu for a live cook off hosted by the outgoing Zest Quest Asia champions the University of West London.

Andrew Gabbitas, Catering Lecturer, The Sheffield College, said: “I am so proud of our students. The self-confidence that winning this competition has given them is immeasurable.

“They have worked so hard putting in around 80 hours of practise, creating and rehearsing the menu and developing their skills.

“The students have been an absolute joy to work with. It is fantastic to see their efforts and skills rewarded with the trip of a lifetime to India.

“Zest Quest Asia’s aim of nurturing talent in Asian food is certainly having an effect here at the college. Year on year the level of interest amongst our students grows. 

“Asian inspired food is regularly offered in our training restaurant, The Silver Plate, that is open to the public, with many of the dishes being our competition entries.”

The menu that the students created included an amuse bouche of portobello mushroom sisig and a tapsilog starter comprising fried egg, beef tapa and garlic fried rice.

The main course comprised chicken adobo with caramelised soy green beans, banana ketchup and annatto peanuts and it was followed by a dessert of turon with ube ice cream and caramel rum sauce.

Student Beth Brewster said: “I am still in shock about winning! I'm so proud of how far the team has come and feel so happy to have been a part of it all. 

“The college course so far has been really enjoyable and interesting. I have learned absolutely loads of things, and it's made me more creative when it comes to cooking away from college. 

“My long term ambition is to work in lots of different types of restaurants. I've always wanted to travel, so cooking in different countries would be incredible and to see how different cultures do things. Eventually, when I've got a lot of experience, I would like to own my own restaurant.”

Student Joe Defries said: “I feel very happy and inspired from winning; it’s given me a lot of confidence. Before the competition we must have put in around 80 hours of preparation, practising two to three times a week. 

“I am really enjoying my course and have learned a lot. I think it’s good because it gives us skills that translate straight to industry. In the long term, I would like to travel and work abroad. The competition has really opened my eyes to other cuisines.”

Student Phoebe Tuttle added: “We are over the moon about winning. I like college and have benefited a lot from it. Looking back to the start of the year, it is crazy to think how much we have improved - all thanks to Mr Gabbitas. My ambition is to become a fine dining or Michelin star chef travelling the world.”

The winners were announced at an awards ceremony held at the Hilton London Wembley on 27th February 2024. The event was attended by 230 guests from industry and education along with the families of the finalists.

In addition to winning first prize, The Sheffield College students were awarded the Best Use of the Panasonic Accelerated Combination Oven, winning the oven for the college.  

As part of their prize, they were also awarded a bespoke all-day class and Dashi journey in Japanese Kaiseki. All the finalists also received a year’s student membership of the Institute of Hospitality, the industry’s global professional body.

Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala set up the Zest Quest Asia competition, with the support of the Master Chefs of Great Britain, in 2013. The Sheffield College previously won the competition in 2022.

Cyrus Todiwala OBE DL FIH said: “Congratulations to The Sheffield College for drawing inspiration from the Philippines, a country that your fellow Sheffield College students visited only two years ago. 

“This is what our competition is all about – students who have experienced and learned first-hand the cuisine of different Asian cultures by getting involved in Zest Quest Asia then pay their knowledge and experience forward. This way slowly but surely more and more budding chefs can be inspired to appreciate and cook Asian food. 

“I want to thank all our sponsors and supporters, especially our headline sponsor, Tilda, who will see to it that our new champions have an unforgettable time in New Delhi.  

“I think Tilda’s commitment to Zest Quest Asia is nothing short of a passion.  I tell the students that competing is only the beginning because from the moment they became finalists, we and our sponsors will see to it that doors open to them.  

“Now our winning team from The Sheffield College is going to discover the tastes and flavours of one of the world’s oldest civilisations.”

Visit www.sheffcol.ac.uk for information about courses and upcoming open days on 13th and 26th March.

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