Orkney’s finest amateur chefs are being urged to throw their aprons into the ring for what promises to be one of the most hotly contested competitions of 2017.
The Orkney Amateur Master Chef event will be staged in Kirkwall on Wednesday, 27 September, with organisers Orkney Food and Drink keen to hear from anyone who thinks they might have what it takes to cook up a storm on the night.
Last staged in 2015, the contest will see four amateur chefs, specially selected by Orkney Food and Drink, go head to head in front of a live audience in the Orkney Theatre.
A panel of expert judges will sample the menus produced by the entrants, which must use as much local produce as possible. Some of the audience will also get the chance to taste the competition food and give their opinion on it.
Keeping the evening on the boil will be hosts Dave Gray and Robbie Fraser, from BBC Radio Orkney.
The competition winner will receive a cash prize and the coveted Orkney Amateur Master Chef trophy. All participants will be presented with a hamper of Orkney goods.
“When I applied, I thought I’d never get picked,” said 2015 contest winner, Kerry Leask. “It was certainly hard work and there’s a lot of preparation involved, but it was a great experience and something I’m very glad I did. To anyone who’s thinking of entering, I’d say just go for it as you’ll absolutely enjoy it.”
Kerry, who has just applied for a place on BBC TV’s MasterChef programme, and taken over the running of the café at the Pickaquoy Centre, admitted she was temporarily rendered speechless on the night of the Orkney event two years ago.
“Out of the four of us in the competition, I was the most nervous,” she laughed. “I was struggling to speak, which is not like me normally, so I understand people might be a bit worried about cooking in front of an audience. But once you get started, you forget they’re there as you’re concentrating so much on what needs to be done. You just have to zone it out.”
In terms of menu planning for prospective competitors, Kerry advised lots of practice.
“You have to cook and cook the same thing, over and over again,” she said. “Once I found out I was going to be in the competition, I lived and cooked my menu and so did my poor family! It’s also a good idea to get friends around to taste your food and give you honest feedback on it all. One of my weaknesses was desserts, so I’d call my friends up at night, asking them to come past and taste my sticky toffee pudding, which I changed loads of times.”
Kerry urged anyone who might know a talented, but perhaps modest, amateur chef, to give them a push to enter the competition.
“That’s what happened with me,” she said. “We’ve all got friends who are great cooks, but maybe they’re a bit shy about it. I certainly don’t regret taking part for one minute and would highly recommend it.”
Edgar Balfour, development manager for Orkney food and drink, said: “Our last amateur Master Chef event proved hugely popular, so we’re delighted to be bringing it back into the Orkney food and drink calendar for this year. Whilst it is a competition, it’s also a fun-filled night and a great spectacle for everyone who comes along to watch. Our judges are a lot kinder than the ones on TV too, so folk shouldn’t be too worried about that element of it all.
“As the first competition proved, we’ve got some outstanding amateur chefs in Orkney and we’d love to see as many as possible entering this time around,” he added. “Unfortunately, we can only select four chefs to take part on the night, but there’s nothing to lose from putting yourself forward and everything to gain, as Kerry proved in 2015.”
Anyone interested in taking part in the competition should register interest via the Orkney Food and Drink website. Further details on how to buy tickets for the event will also appear on the site in the coming weeks.