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Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2023 champion student Laura Naughton from Crescent College Comprehensive SJ in The Strand Hotel Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2023 champion student Laura Naughton from Crescent College Comprehensive SJ in The Strand Hotel

Education

Secondary students shine bright at Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2023

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Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2023 champion student Laura Naughton from Crescent College Comprehensive SJ in The Strand Hotel. Pic. Brian Arthur

The third annual Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2023 took place on Wednesday 26th of April at the Limerick Strand Hotel

Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2023 champion student Laura Naughton from Crescent College Comprehensive SJ in The Strand Hotel
Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2023 champion student Laura Naughton from Crescent College Comprehensive SJ in The Strand Hotel, Limerick today with her tutor Chef Diarmuid O Callaghan. Pic. Brian Arthur

The exciting competition was the pinnacle of an intensive Transition Year taster course led by a team of professional executive chefs from Limerick and Clare ETB’s College of Further Education and Training, Hospitality Campus.

Since last September, schools across the region took part in two different hospitality taster courses specifically developed for transition years: the Junior Chef ‘Culinary Taster’ and a ‘Barista Skills Taster’. These courses were undertaken by over 300 TY students, who have an interest in the hospitality and tourism sector as a possible career choice or learning a skill for life.

One student finalist was then chosen from four schools across the region to represent their school in a 2-hour live culinary grand final in the Limerick Strand Hotel kitchen. Laura Naughton, a TY student from Crescent College Comprehensive SJ was announced as the overall competition winner and received the 1st Place Gold Medal.  


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Speaking about being crowned this year’s Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year she said, “I’m really happy with the win and how the whole final went. I think it’s a great competition for anyone to be a part of. I really liked preparing the food, particularly the desserts, and I also loved getting to know all the finalists throughout the competition. We all got on so well. I also want to thank my mentor Chef Diarmuid O’Callaghan. He was so helpful all the way through. He’s really great.”

During the final, students used local fresh produce to create a main course and dessert in the professional kitchen at the Limerick Strand Hotel. Executive Chefs Tom Flavin and Diarmuid O’Callaghan from theCollege of FET Hospitality Campus acted as mentors for the 4 finalists, guiding them through their menu choices through the build-up to the event and helping them prepare for the final; with advice on timings and the best ingredients and techniques to use for each dish. 

Speaking at the event Chef Diarmuid O’Callaghan, andwinner Laura’s mentor said: “I’m really proud of Laura. She worked so hard and she really deserves this and she got so much out of it. it’s a brilliant initiative not only for the cooking aspect but also for building confidence among the contestants and getting them working together while learning new skills.”

The College of FET Hospitality Campus, operated by Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, provides skills training in multiple areas of the hospitality sector and continues to provide the highest level of culinary and hospitality training, building strong relationships within the Irish hospitality industry and connecting learners directly with employment opportunities.

Speaking about this year’s competition, Chief Executive of Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, George O’Callaghan, said: “The apprenticeship ‘taster’ scheme for transition years with an interest in the hospitality industry as a career has proven highly popular with students across the region over the past three years. The programme is run our College of Further Education and Training Hospitality Campus in Limerick and is supported significantly by the Schools Division. The programme is aligned with the national FET strategy to integrate ‘taster’ vocational courses into second level education. I would like to congratulate all of the schools and Transition Year students who competed in the final and 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 event for our Transition Year students a reality.”

The competition continues to be significantly supported by the hospitality sector and Stephen O’Connor, Chair of the Shannon Branch of the Irish Hotels Federation and General Manager of the Limerick Strand Hotel is very enthusiastic about the competition: “The TY students here today have been brilliant, producing local, modern and sophisticated food that I’d be happy to see on the menu here at the Limerick Strand Hotel. I want to congratulate the students on how professional they’ve been throughout the competition and the mentors and staff from the College of FET, Hospitality Campus for all their expertise and support. This is a really positive day for the hospitality industry and we want to build on this kind of initiative and show how rewarding an industry we are, where young people can realise the opportunities they have in a fun and fast-paced career in hospitality.”

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Richard is a presenter, producer, songwriter and actor. He was named the Limerick Person of the Year (2011) and won an online award at the Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Awards (2011) for promoting multi-culturalism online. Richard says that the ilovelimerick.com concept is very much a community driven project that aims to document life in Limerick. So, that in 20 years time people can look back and remember the events that were making the headlines.