Cheshire student one of 12 finalists in nationwide cooking competition

Teachers and students at a Cheshire high school are celebrating as one of its 15-year-old pupils has secured a place at the annual Springboard FutureChef national final.

The prestigious competition for pupils aged 14-16 brings together 12 regional finalists from across the UK to cook a two-course meal judged by industry experts and chefs. The competition is an extension of the charity’s FutureChef programme, a schools-based initiative that supports the development of key life skills whilst inspiring young people across the UK to pursue exciting careers in hospitality.

Poynton High School student, Millie Jo Lomax, secured her place in the final of the UK’s biggest school culinary competition after winning the North West regional heat at St Helen’s College, St Helens, where nine students from schools across the North West competed for their place at the national final in London.

The North West regional heat saw pupils tasked with creating a signature menu in 90 minutes, which was judged on everything from composition, taste and flavour to creativity, presentation, skill and technique. 

Accompanied by her mentor Stephen Woodward, regional development chef at school catering company Chartwells, and members of the Poynton High School catering team, Millie Jo served a delicious and nutritious menu of katsu curry and seasonal fruit panna cotta. 

She achieved an impressive score of 86 out of 100, with judges praising her incredible cooking skills, flavour combinations, and ability to create a nutritionally balanced dish.

Millie Jo was inspired to enter the competition having developed a passion for cooking and nutrition through Chartwells’ Junior Chef Academy – a free ten-week programme that teaches pupils aged 14-16 key chef skills. Chartwells’ expert team of chefs mentor pupils through courses on knifework, nutrition and sustainability, with the aim to help inspire pupils and nurture the next generation of chefs.

The Springboard FutureChef national final will take place in London on 18 March, where Millie Jo and the other finalists will be tasked with delivering a new menu incorporating plant-based and local ingredients.

To celebrate her success, Poynton High School will also be holding a “Millie Jo day” in the summer, where Millie Jo’s katsu curry will be the dish of the day at the canteen.

Matthew Dean, headteacher at Poynton High School, said: “We’re delighted by Millie Jo’s success in the Springboard FutureChef Competition. Millie Jo is a fantastic pupil and talented future chef, and we’re proud to support her on this journey. 

“All of us at Poynton High School wish Millie Jo the best of luck in the National Final and look forward to trying her dishes at our “Millie Jo day” this summer.”

Stephen Woodward, regional development chef at Chartwells, said: “At Chartwells we’re passionate about nurturing new talent and inspiring the next generation of chefs in the local communities we serve. Millie Jo has shown such an incredible passion for food, and we’re delighted that our Junior Chef Academy programme has helped inspire her to take that next step on her cooking journey. 

“As her mentor I couldn’t be prouder to see progress to the Springboard FutureChef National Final, and can’t wait to cheer her on!”

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