RESTAURANT-standard food cooked by a Parkside School student has been praised by organisers of the National FutureChef competition.

Organisations involved in the annual competition highlighted the quality of dishes prepared by finalists including 16-year-old Imogen Pickles.

They also spoke of the importance of helping budding chefs like Imogen and fellow students at the Cullingworth school get into the catering and hospitality industry.

Imogen came third in the Springboard Charity’s FutureChef tournament after beating 12,000 young entrants to reach the national final last month.

Imogen wowed the judges with her pan-fried sea bass with ratatouille, salsa verde and wilted spinach, with lemon, raspberry and orange roulade with homemade lemon curd and raspberry puree.

Organisers said all finalists had practiced tirelessly over the last year, and it showed on the day as they remained calm and collected under pressure.

Judges said the high standard of cuisine made it difficult to choose between Imogen, winner Catrin Manning from Carmarthenshire, Wales, and second-prize winner Wojtek Czyzewski, from Edinburgh. All three winners were 16.

The young people each won a cash prize, embroidered aprons and chef jackets, commemorative medals, and educational experiences including kitchen tours.

Head judge David Mulcahy, Food Development and Innovation Director at Sodexo UK, said standards rose every year.

He said: “I think what stood out at the finals was the level of skill at such a young age, the way they understood the brief, to cook, season, flavour and present to such a high standard.

“It is restaurant standard food – and that’s what won it on the day.”

FutureChef has been running since 1999, starting out solely as a competition, which now has school, local and regional heats before the national finals.

The Springboard Charity, which helps young people break out of poverty and unemployment to succeed in the hospitality, leisure and tourism industries, decided it needed to do more.

The charity created the year-round FutureChef programme to educate young people in schools about food and nutrition.

Well-known British chef Brian Turner CBE, who joined FutureChef at its inception, said the programme was vital for educating young people about nutrition and getting them into the industry.

Brian said, “There isn’t enough domestic science and food tech being taught today, so young people aren’t learning the basic skills of cooking that sustain their way of living.”

Anne Pierce, the CEO of the Springboard Charity, said: “FutureChef supports the food curriculum in schools and provides a pipeline of culinary talent into the vibrant hospitality industry.”