Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2021 – Pictured above are Darragh O’Dálaigh of nGaelcholáiste An Chláir (3rd) , Fionn Kennedyof Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh (winner) , Emilia Sharakhovskaya of Mungret Community College (2nd) and O’keefe Olenga of Thomond Community College. Picture: Brian Arthur.
Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2021 inspires next generation of culinary stars
A new apprenticeship ‘taster’ scheme for transition years with an interest in the hospitality industry as a career has proven highly popular with students across the Limerick and Clare region over the past academic year. The initiative, run by Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board’s College of FET Hospitality Campus in Limerick, is aligned with the national FET strategy to integrate ‘taster’ vocational courses into second-level education.
Since last September, Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board schools have participated in two different hospitality taster courses specifically developed for transition years: a junior chef ‘apprenticeship taster’ and a barista skills taster. Running over eight-week cycles, one day a week, the courses were aimed at students who have an interest in the hospitality sector as a career, or in learning an essential skill for life.
The Junior Chef ‘Apprenticeship Taster’ course was run by a team of professional executive chefs from the ETB’s Hospitality Campus and the Panel of Chefs of Ireland. The taster course culminated in today’s competition specifically for transition year students – the Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2021. One student finalist was selected from four schools across the region to represent their school in the 2-hour live culinary grand final in the Limerick Strand Hotel kitchen. Fionn Kennedy, a TY student from Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh was the overall competition winner and received the 1st Place Gold Medal.
Speaking virtually at today’s inaugural competition, Minister for Further & Higher Education, Research, Innovation & Science, Simon Harris TD, said: “As our country now, thankfully, begins to re-open, and as we try to re-emerge from what has been such a difficult pandemic, there is no doubt that hospitality is going to bring life back into the villages, towns and cities right across our country and the Shannon region will be no different in that regard.” He continued: “I know we’re all looking forward to a vibrant hospitality sector returning and that requires really skilled people working in the industry, so congratulations to everyone involved in this initiative, I wish you all the very best.”
Chief Executive of Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, George O’Callaghan, who opened the competition, spoke about how important the event was for those taking part. He said: “I would like to congratulate all of the schools and Transition Year students involved in today’s competition from Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh, Thomond Community College, Gaelcholáiste an Chláir and Mungret Community College.” He continued: “I would like to congratulate our Further Education and Training Division and our Schools Division on this fantastic initiative. I would also like to thank our team of professional executive chefs from the ETB’s Hospitality Campus and the Panel of Chefs of Ireland who have helped make today’s competition for our transition year students a reality.”
Students got to choose local fresh produce and cook them in the professional kitchen with an eye on healthy eating, especially food that supports good mental health for life. One of the competition judges was Tom Flavin, Executive Chef, Limerick Strand Hotel. He said: “I’ve seen at first hand the benefits of the apprenticeship system to develop the next generation of chefs. This ‘apprenticeship taster’ course and the Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2021 competition is helping significantly to encourage, nurture and mentor second-level students who want to pursue careers in the hospitality industry.”
The College of FET Hospitality Campus, operated by Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board’s Further Education and Training Division, provides the highest level of culinary and hospitality training. It has built strong relationships within the Irish hospitality industry since its inception and links its learners directly with employment opportunities. It provides skills training in multiple areas of the hospitality sector. Bernadette Enright, Centre Manager, said: “Our centre is unique in that it delivers specific skills training directed at finding future employment in the hospitality industry. The secret to our success is the collaboration between all the different partners. We are highly industry-focused and continually liaise with the sector to adapt to changing skills needs.”
The success of the pilot initiative has been significantly welcomed and supported by hospitality sector employers and human resource managers across the Shannon Region. Dermot Kelly, Chair of the Shannon Branch of the Irish Hotels Federation said: “This is the way to go in encouraging young people to choose careers in the hospitality and tourism sector by starting in the secondary schools. It has given the ETB’s College of Further Education and Training Hospitality Campus the opportunity to support students to really consider careers in tourism. The hospitality sector may not have been a pathway that was typically encouraged from schools in the past for many reasons. However, on completing this taster course, TY students have experienced a positive FET experience and can make informed choices on pathways to a career in hospitality through Traineeships or Apprenticeship.”
The inaugural Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2021 took place in the Limerick Strand Hotel on Wednesday 19th May, where 4 Transition Year students from schools across Limerick and Clare competed in a 2-hour live culinary competition. The event final followed heats and semi-finals that took place in participating schools during the 20/21 academic year. The event has significant support from across the tourism and hospitality sector including the President of the Irish Panel of Chefs, Paddy Brady; Education Director of World Chefs, John Clancy; Euro-Toques Ireland, Wade Murphy; the Shannon Branch of the Irish Hotels Federation, and Fáilte Ireland.
The judging panel consisted of representatives from the organisations above and the event also featured recorded inserts from the various industry representatives at different points during the competition. The event was live-streamed via Zoom to all ETB schools in the region, career guidance teachers, families and invited friends.
Winner Names and Mentors
1st Place Gold Medal Student:
FIONN KENNEDY, Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh | Mentor: Chef David Geoghegan
2nd Place Silver Medal Student:
EMILIA SHARAKHOVSKAYA, Mungret Community College | Mentor: Chef Tom Flavin
Joint 3rd Place Bronze Medal Students:
DARRAGH O DÁLAIGH, Gaelcholáiste an Chláir |Mentor: Chef Carol Dollery
O’KEEFE OLENGA, Thomond Community College | Mentor: Chef Kieran Shaughnessy
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For more stories on Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board go HERE
The inaugural Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2021 takes place in the @LimerickStrand this Weds where TY students from @GCanChlair @GCLuimnigh @ThomondCommColl & @mungretcc will compete in a 2hr culinary comp. Join us for the live final from 11am https://t.co/SQXA939rUi pic.twitter.com/lvL8SNzrXw
— Limerick & Clare ETB #StaySafe (@LimClareETB) May 17, 2021