Kerry wins Amateur Master Chef 2015

Kerry Leask won the title after a competition staged in a packed Orkney Theatre on 30 September, going head to head with fellow amateur cooks, Erica Clarkson, Caroline Critchlow and Firdous Shaikh.

Compered by BBC Radio Orkney’s Dave Gray and Robbie Fraser, the sold out event was organised by Orkney Food and Drink, with sponsorship from NorthLink Ferries and Jewson Ltd.

Each chef had to prepare a three-course meal within a fully fitted, professional kitchen, specially installed in the theatre by Jewson Ltd.

The culinary creations, all made using Orkney produce, were tasted by a panel of judges from the food and drink sector, along with some members of the audience, before Kerry’s menu was deemed best of the night.

Kerry, who works at the Pickaquoy Centre in Kirkwall, said she was delighted to have won the competition.

“I was very nervous the whole way through. Even at the very end my hands were shaking, but you just have to put your head down and do it. The hardest bit was the timing and having a panel of people judging it. It was good though and I’m very glad I did it.”

Although a keen amateur, Kerry said she’d never tackled a cooking competition before being encouraged by her friends to apply for Orkney MasterChef.

“I applied, never thinking I’d actually be doing it,” she said. “I love cooking at home and take a pride in it whenever we invite people around for dinner. I’ll spend a whole day preparing a meal and love that people enjoy my food. This was the next level, but I did enjoy it. It was hard work though and I feel it’s been my life for the last four weeks. I did lots of tweaks to the menu just to make it perfect, so I’ll be glad not to cook the same thing for a while!”

Although Kerry’s friends are now urging her to enter TV’s MasterChef competition, she said she wasn’t sure she could handle the pressure.

“I’m just a bit overwhelmed at the moment, so goodness knows what the future holds! It was a real confidence boost though.”

The contest followed last year’s hugely popular Orkney Professional MasterChef competition, won by the Foveran’s Roddy Belford.

“It was a fantastic evening,” said Roddy, who was back this year as a competition judge. “I thought the overall standard was extremely good. The menus were well thought out, with an abundance of local produce, creativity and skill shown under pressure.

“I liked Kerry's winning menu as it wasn't over complicated and let the ingredients speak for themselves,” he added. “I particularly enjoyed her ginger Orkney Fudge ice cream. That was definitely a flavour I would steal for our menu at the Foveran! Overall, it was an excellent platform to showcase local produce and the talents of our keen amateur chefs.”

Edgar Balfour, development manager for Orkney food, drink and crafts, said: “Every one of the competitors excelled themselves and ensured the evening was a massive success. It was also clear how much the audience enjoyed it, so it’s definitely an event we want to keep in the Orkney food and drink calendar. The standard of cooking was simply astonishing, with all the chefs demonstrating a real understanding of how best to use our wonderful Orkney produce.”

He added: “Although all the menus were outstanding, there could only be one winner, with Kerry most deserving of the title of Orkney Amateur MasterChef 2015.”

Peter Hutchinson, customer service director at NorthLink Ferries said: “We were very pleased to have sponsored this year’s competition. This has been a fantastic event for everyone involved and one which has really demonstrated local culinary skills. NorthLink Ferries would like to congratulate Kerry on her great winning menu and all of those who took part.”

Kerry’s winning menu is detailed below.

Starter:    Surf ‘n’ Turf Fishcakes – stuffed with haddock, bacon and cheese, served with a tartare-style sauce

Main:    Raspberrylicious Duck – pan roasted duck with a hint of cinnamon, served with an Orkney raspberry sauce

Sweet:    Orkney Fudge Pudding, served with a toffee sauce and Orkney fudge ice cream

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