After leading his team to victory at the third time of asking at Hotelympia in March, City of Glasgow College lecturer Robbie Phillips knows a thing or two about what’s needed to succeed in the Country Range Student Chef Challenge.
Robbie and his team of students – Lee Christie, Jordan McKenzie and Erin Sweeney – fought off fierce competition from nine other colleges from around the UK to win the prestigious title, impressing the judges with their flavour, skills, teamwork and organisation.
The disappointment of not making last year’s showpiece final at ScotHot 2017 helped spur Robbie on even more this year and his students were put through their paces to ensure their preparation was perfect for the big finale.
“Prior to the final we practised most nights late in to the evening to ensure the team were competition ready. I would make them work in restricted places, give them limited time to set up and even invite people in to the kitchen to distract them as it’s great to keep them on their toes. It certainly paid off this year!”
The benefits to students competing in the Challenge are endless too with Robbie commenting on the skills developed by his team. He continued:
“The Challenge is a very sharp learning curve for students but it nurtures creativity and teaches them precision, organisational skills, discipline, speed and teamwork, which reinforces what they learn at college and need in the industry. They also get to travel and meet people from other parts of the country, visit shows and events so it’s a great opportunity to build their CV, as well as being a tremendous source of personal achievement and pride.”
It’s not only the students and colleges who benefit too as Robbie explained:
“It’s also great for chefs and businesses outside college to see that our students have experienced and thrived in the pressure of professional kitchens under tight timelines. Working within a budget and producing beautiful food, communicating and working as a team all help students thrive in industry and become real assets in the kitchen.”
Robbie is already looking forward to the challenge of retaining the title next year and hopes the press and prestige around the win can help attract more students to enrol, compete and take advantage of City of Glasgow’s incredible catering facilities.