Beer young chef wins ‘best dish’ in national cookery contest

Technical difficulties may have prevented a young chef from Beer from winning a coveted national cookery competition.

Zoe Sing, 16, was in the final of the Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland (RIBI) Young Chef competition for the second time this year where she scooped the “best dish” prize for her dessert.

She was among seven budding cooks to make the final in Denman College in Abingdon, Oxford, on April 21, with the task of cooking a three-course meal in two hours with a budget of �15.

Zoe, who came second overall last year, said:“I was less scared last year and maybe the nerves got to me this time.”

She added that “technical difficulties” and problems getting hot plates hot enough may have scuppered her main dish of sea bass which must be flash-cooked at very high heat.

Her fish dish may not have lived up to her expectations but her dark chocolate mousse with hazelnut praline on delicate caramel stalks disappointed no-one.

The judges said it would grace any top restaurant while Zoe’s teachers said it was “art on a plate”.

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Nonetheless, Zoe, who is from Stovar Long Lane in Beer and goes to school at St Margaret’s School in Exeter, is not letting the success go to her head.

She said: “I enjoyed it and I do want to keep going with competitions but I’m just going to see how it goes.”

She has no definite plans for a culinary career but will soon be doing work experience with the Dorset chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, at his River Cottage.

Rick Stein also counts as one of her food heroes.

In contrast to Zoe’s bashfulness, her home economics teacher, Elaine Clark, said she was “exceptionally proud” of her star pupil’s achievement.

She added: “There is a feeling of excitement mixed with helplessness when pupils enter such competitions and we can’t do anything to help them.” Zoe is a great cook and has a great future ahead of her, but must focus on her GCSEs for now, she added.

The school has a strong culinary culture and regularly hosts food “masterclasses” led by top chefs. Two St Margaret’s schoolgirls besides Zoe have previously made it to the Devon finals of the Rotary young chef contest.

Zoe’s complete menu was a starter of herbed venison with seasonal salad, followed by Beer-caught seabass and scallops with pea puree, followed by her dark chocolate mousse with hazelnut praline.