Last Thursday saw the first round of the ‘Golden Egg Student Cook-Off’, where preliminary standards were well and truly baked in stone in the form of a rolled orange cake,  crispy salmon parcel and a gluten free chocolate cake to name a few. With a wide brief, each student had scope to knock up a gastronomic show-stopper of choice that was worthy of launching them into round two!

The judges were Layla Pegado, Barbora Stiess, Rebecca Sargent and Jessie Wardlaw.

As the first group got underway, the appearance of presentation slates, blenders, froths and purees half merited the emergence of a steaming bowl of liquid nitrogen in the dextrous arms of Michel Roux Jr……….However, with not a trace of John Torrode’s discerning glares or Greg Wallace’s ‘buttery-biscuit-base’ rhythms, an unruly competitive tension tainted the air as each student quietly set out to impress. What was apparent from the entire evening was the contagious enjoyment from the willing participants as each talked passionately and enthusiastically about their chosen recipe.

The students were tested in more than one way. They were forced into multi-tasking as intimidating cameras filmed their every stir and the 4 judges grilled them on their method choices. However, with the occasional head shake and some greedy smiling, 11 beautifully created dishes were loyally churned out for judgement.

The selection saw some real potential. A spicy lamb kofta with pillowy homemade flatbreads, a buttery kedgeree topped with a molten poached egg and a vegetarian barley risotto were amongst the tastings and filled the room with some intensive flavours. Whether silenced unexpectedly by Ana’s rolling orange cake with caramelised segments or the sweat-inducing spice from Laura’s chickpea curry, the food was impressive. However, these and the addition of some other hearty plates, could not detract from this weeks star dish. As Leong packed a range of techniques – what on paper seemed impossible- into the space of one hour, he wooed the judges by charming their sweet tooth. His dishe’s seasonality, warmth, silky and delectably complementing flavours in the form of a dark ginger and molasses cake, were commended as it sat daintily on a ribbon of sweetly smooth pumpkin puree. Topped with maple mousse and crisp fried sage leaves, it certainly hushed the judges criticising tones and sent him gliding into the second round with next weeks advantage! Following Leong closely were the efforts of Ana, Shanice and Rosie, who also impressed in this first round. However, although standards were high, we had to say goodbye to three of our students, as the competition narrows down for round two next week!

By Jessie Wardlaw

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