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Ex-Cookery student Will reaches Young Chef of the Year final

Former York College Professional Cookery student Will Powell has reached the Delifresh Young Chef of the Year final.

Will, 21, is now preparing to compete against nine fellow heat winners amid familiar surroundings on Monday, November 13th with the final taking place in the Cookery School at The Grand in York, where he is training to become a Chef de Partie.

Should he emerge triumphant, Will would also become the second alumnus from Sim Balk Lane and employee at The Grand to win the title after ex-Level 2 Commis Chef student Harry Blades claimed first prize in the inaugural running of the competition last year.

The final will be a three-and-a-half hour Masterchef-style cook off with all contestants required to serve up a canape, main course and dessert.

Will is now busy perfecting his three courses, explaining: “I’ve been coming in on my days off and staying longer after work to practice and get everything down to a tee. It’s a really good feeling and quite overwhelming to get to the final from where I’ve come from.”

For the canape, Will is planning to fry Spring Roll Pastry into a pillow shape and then fill it with a Pepper and Shallot Piperade Relish.

He will also add Tomato Juice and White Wine Vinegar.

For the main, he has decided on Pan-fried John Dory, Charred Leek and a Savoy Spinach Sauteed Salad, all served with a Butternut Squash and Lemon Puree and a Tom Yum Sauce split with Herb Oil.

His dessert, meanwhile, will be Caramelised Bramley Apple Tart made with Pate Sucree Dough and Almond Crumble and served with a Miso Espuma Cream Foam, Yoghurt Ice Cream and Apple Gel.

To reach the final, Will wowed judges with his culinary skills during a three-hour heat in which he was required to rustle up a main course and dessert.

For the main, he made Steamed Seabass wrapped in Yellow and Green Courgettes, with a Fish Sauce and Caper Sauce.

It was served with Potatoes that were cooked in Saffron-Infused Water to give them a nice, orange colour; Spring Onion that was blanched and then charred using a blow torch and a Courgette, Dill, Spinach and Honey Puree.

For dessert, he produced a Raspberry Mousse, which had Freeze-Dried Raspberries around the side with the inside of the mousse scooped out and filled with Fresh Raspberries and a Raspberry Gel.

To top it off, it was served with Thin Sable Shortbread Biscuit.

Will first took up cookery in his early teens at Manor Church of England Academy before studying Professional Cookery at College from 2019 to 2021, where he learned skills that he admits he continues to rely on every day now he is working in the industry.

“I was interested in cooking from a young age, probably from around 13 when I was in Year Nine,” he said. “I did the GCSE in Hospitality and Catering at Manor, where they have an industrial kitchen, so I spent three years learning there.

“I then decided I wanted to focus on cooking rather than front-of-house and that’s when I started College on the Level 1 Professional Cookery course. I passed and went on to Level 2 and Level 3 before heading off into the world of work and I learnt a lot of techniques at College, like the typical French ones.

“I also developed my understanding of kitchens and health and safety at College. They are all the basics that you need whichever kitchen you are working in and the skills I learned at College have definitely helped me in real life.

“Our tutor Graham Fyfe was also always pushing for us to do the best that we could and he brought that out of me. He gave me the correct tools in a really good learning environment. I really enjoyed College and wanted to be there.”

After leaving College, Will worked at The Cut & Craft Restaurant in York for just over a year, where the “fast-paced” nature of the job prepared him for his current position at The Grand.

On the completion of his Chef de Partie training, Will will be expected to run a specific part of the kitchen where he will cook, known as a station.

He will also oversee everything that occurs in his section of the kitchen from preparation for cooking to the presentation of food.

It is a responsibility that he relishes, adding: “I love learning and absorbing as much information as possible and I’d like to work my way up to becoming a Junior Sous Chef or Senior Chef de Partie.”

Delifresh are a food service distributor with depots in Bradford, Widnes and Newcastle.

Their mission as a company is to keep chefs inspired and connected across the North of England.