Junior Chefs Shine in Limerick
The third annual Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2023 took place at the Limerick Strand Hotel. The competition was the pinnacle of an intensive Transition Year taster course led by a team of professional executive chefs from Limerick and Clare ETB’s College of Further Education and Training, Hospitality Campus.
Pictured are: Ronya Sparling, Desmond College Newcastle West Limerick; Laura Naughton, Crescent College Comprehensive, Limerick; Mia Hennelly, St Anne’s Community College, Killaloe, Co Clare; and Anna Cox, Coláiste Íde agus Iosef Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick.
Since last September, schools across the region took part in two different hospitality taster courses specifically developed for transition years - the Junior Chef “Culinary Taster” and a “Barista Skills Taster”. These courses were undertaken by over 300 TY students who have an interest in the hospitality and tourism sector as a possible career choice or in learning a skill for life.
One student finalist was then chosen from four schools across the region to represent their school in a two-hour live culinary grand final in the Limerick Strand Hotel kitchen. Laura Naughton, a TY student from Crescent College Comprehensive SJ, was announced as the overall competition winner and received the 1st Place Gold Medal.
During the final, students used local fresh produce to create a main course and dessert in the professional kitchen at the Limerick Strand Hotel. Executive Chefs Tom Flavin and Diarmuid O’Callaghan from the College of FET Hospitality Campus acted as mentors for the four finalists, guiding them through their menu choices through the build-up to the event and helping them prepare for the final, with advice on timings and the best ingredients and techniques to use for each dish.
The College of FET Hospitality Campus, operated by Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, provides skills training in multiple areas of the hospitality sector and continues to provide the highest level of culinary and hospitality training, building strong relationships within the Irish hospitality industry and connecting learners directly with employment opportunities.
The competition continues to be significantly supported by the hospitality sector, and Stephen O’Connor, Chair of the Shannon Branch of the Irish Hotels Federation and General Manager of the Limerick Strand Hotel, is very enthusiastic about the competition.
The judging panel consisted of Chef Wade Murphy, Euro-Toques Ireland and 1826 Adare; Alan Fitzmaurice, President, Panel of Chefs Ireland; Cllr Olivia O’Sullivan from Limerick Food Group and Pigtown Food & Culture Festival; Stephen O’Connor, General Manager of the Limerick Strand Hotel and Chair of the Shannon Branch of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF); and Michael Magner, IHF Vice President.
Winner and Mentors
1st Place Gold Medal Student:
- Laura Naughton, Crescent College Comprehensive SJ, Limerick | Mentor: Chef Diarmuid O’Callaghan
2nd Place Silver Medal Students:
- Anna Cox, Coláiste Íde agus Iosef, Abbeyfeale | Mentor: Chef Tom Flavin
- Mia Hennelly, St Anne’s Community College, Killaloe | Mentor: Chef Diarmuid O’Callaghan
- Ronya Sparling, Desmond College, Newcastle West | Mentor: Chef Tom Flavin