Published on May 6, 2022

Luke McDonald, a Level 3 Professional Cookery student at North Hertfordshire College, made it through to the finals of the Young Risotto Chef of the Year competition, getting a chance to cook in the kitchens at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium! Luke took this opportunity very seriously, taking part in a range of preparatory activities to make sure he was at the top of his game to compete against the other young chefs. 

After winning his regional heat and receiving feedback from the judges, Luke began planning how to develop his risotto dish to take it to the next level. Enter Parkside Farm Shop and Butchers, a local farm that produces free-range meat! Luke and his tutor, Anthony Gascoigne, visited Parkside to learn more about how the pigs are reared and the meat produced, before Luke had the chance to develop and make his own Italian sausage to use in the competition. 

With plenty of practice under his belt (and a custom-made Italian sausage in the fridge), Luke was then ready to take on the grand finals of the Young Risotto Chef of the Year. Whilst he didn’t come away with a win, Luke demonstrated dedication, determination, and drive as he practiced and refined his skills throughout the competition. He’s also been offered a stage at a high-end restaurant as a result of all his hard work, where he’ll be able to apply his skills in a live kitchen. 

Luke is proud of his achievements and for making it through to the finals. He said of his experience: “I had an amazing day at the competition. I was really nervous going into the final, but once I got cooking I really enjoyed the pressure of producing my risotto in the 15 minutes available. The feedback I got from the judges was excellent and let me know how I could develop my dish. 

“Cooking for such amazing Italian chefs was a real buzz and has inspired me to enter more competitions. The competition as a whole is an amazing experience that I am grateful to have taken part in. It’s a wonderful way show off the skills I have learnt over the years in my catering career, as well as to meet other up and coming chefs in the industry to broaden my network. This will look great on my CV, and hopefully I will do well on my stage which will provide me with future career opportunities.” 

Anthony Gascoigne, one of NHC;’s Catering tutors, said of Luke’s experience and the competition: “Young Risotto Chef of the Year is one of the highlights of our competitive year. The calibre of judges really makes it a robust challenge. The level of competition increases each year, and this year the standards were really high. Luke made it to the final 11 out of over 100 entries, which is a huge achievement in itself. 

“Working in collaboration with Parkside Farm Shop and Butchers extended Luke’s skill set and he gained valuable insights into sustainable and environmentally-aware livestock rearing methods – such an important part of being a chef. On top of the achievement of competing in the finals, Luke will be offered a stage at a high-end restaurant, which exposes him to more of the industry and prepares him for his next steps after college. I would like to thank Young Risotto Chef of the Year and Riso Gallo for providing these opportunities for our young chefs.” 

Well done again to Luke for all your hard work! 

If you’re interested in starting a career in the catering industry, why not check out North Hertfordshire College’s catering courses? Find who you want to be!