Lexie wins young chef crown

Published: Thursday 27th March 14

Graveney schoolgirl Lexie Delaney has been crowned Wandsworth Young Chef of the Year.



She beat seven other finalists from schools around the borough to scoop the title, following a tense final cook-off judged by top chefs including TV’s Brian Turner.

This is the first year the competition has been held, but has proved such a success it is set to become an annual event, supported by the major catering company Compass.

The judges deliberate

The Wandsworth Young Chef competition was the brainchild of the mayor of Wandsworth, Angela Graham, who has pledged to spend her mayoral year creating opportunities for young people. She teamed up with Nick Vadis, UK Executive Chef of Compass, to make the project happen.

All the finalists will get work experience at the Compass Group, which is responsible for the catering at the Brits, the Oscars, Twickenham Stadium and other major venues and events. If they do well and decide they want a career in catering, they could be offered an apprenticeship.

They have all been given a medal, an HSBC bank account containing £50, personalised chef whites and hat and a cook book. The winner picked up £250. They will now all go on to help Compass chefs cater a grand gala dinner at the Roehampton Club next week for local dignitaries, hosted by Cllr Graham.

Six local schools took part in the competition, each holding ‘cook-offs’ to whittle down entrants to one finalist. They were mentored by chefs from Compass who helped them fine-tune their skills in cooking, budgeting, sourcing ingredients and food hygiene.  The finalists were also taken on a trip to Billingsgate Seafood Training school to learn more about sourcing, selecting and fileting fish.

Winner Lexie with Cllr Graham

They competed on Tuesday (March 25) at the finals in Burntwood School in front of three judges; Brian Turner, Anna Haugh-Kelly, head chef of Gordon Ramsey’s London House restaurant, and Scott Freeman, head of apprenticeship training at Compass.

The students had to create a three-course meal for two, spending no more than £16. Lexie wowed the judges with her menu of pea, mint and leek soup with poppy seed cheese straws, rich beef ragu with pappadelle and poached pears with ginger ice cream.

She said: “The general experience has been amazing, I have loved working with the different chef mentors and learnt such a lot. It has made me go that one step further – like presentation – that isn’t something you think about when you cook at home.”

Brian Turner said: “This is quite a unique experience and should be the blueprint of what should be happening around the country. I am very optimistic that these finalists should be going to more competitions in the future. It’s what it tastes like that counts and many of these dishes tasted wonderful. If all schools had a kitchen like this we could change the world.”

Cllr Graham said: “I consider this competition one of the highlights of my year as mayor, and I am delighted Compass will support us going forward to hopefully make this an annual event. I’d like to thank them, all the judges, Billingsgate and everyone else who has helped us over the past few months. It has enabled us to spot young talent that may otherwise have gone unnoticed, nurture it, and unlock that young person’s potential.”

All the finalists with Cllr Graham

The final was also attended by the council’s education spokesman Kathy Tracey. She said: “Wandsworth is going through a boom, and we want to help our young people take advantage of it. Helping them gain valuable skills that they can take forward into a growing catering and hospitality industry will help them and the industry. I wish all our finalists well in the future.”

The finalists were:  

  • Pruntha Yoganathan, Burntwood Academy
  • Shah Zarib Shonsi, Ernest Bevin College
  • Calum Reeves, Saint Cecilia’s Wandsworth
  • Fatima Edward Reid, Battersea Park School
  • Tanzila Anum, Southfields Academy
  • Lexie Delaney, Graveney Academy
  • Tiffany Saunders, Battersea Park School
  • Tilly Price, Saint Cecilia’s Wandsworth

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