Venues of Excellence members go head-to-head in the kitchen

Eleven venues from across the UK went head-to-head this weekend, at the annual Venues of Excellence Cook and Serve Challenge 2019.

The competition, which sees Venues of Excellence members battle it out to create culinary masterpieces and provide top quality service to invited guests, recognises best individual courses and services in both junior and senior categories, as well as Food Service Champion and Best Team.

The theme of this year’s contest – held in partnership with catering management firm Wilson Vale – was ‘Showcasing Talent’, with venues tasked with the challenge of preparing and serving a three-course menu that showcases themselves and their venue using a minimum of five ingredients from a provided list.

Deon Chikwama and Georgia Wood of Imago Venues Burleigh Court were named as ‘Best Team’ and College Court’s Jack Jarman took the crown as Champion Chef, along with Athina Vasileiou, who was awarded Food Service Champion for her front of house service.

The duo served a menu of hand-dived scallop; sous vide pork belly; and 77 percent chocolate with vanilla poached quince, liquorice meringue and hazelnuts.

Athina also took top prize for Best Cocktails and Best Beverage Selection in the junior category for the drinks options served alongside the winning menu, including an Autumn Spiced Old Fashioned cocktail and a Cranberry No-Jito.

Said Business School in Oxford won this year’s inaugural Best Venue Catering Service Award, judged by an independent panel who visited the venue prior to the competition.

Mandy Jennings, Executive Director at Venues of Excellence, said: “This year’s Cook and Serve Challenge was a great success, with 11 of our member venues putting their culinary and service skills to the test.

“We were wowed by the talent on show and the skills that exist within these venues up and down the country. It really does show how independent UK venues are raising the bar when it comes to catering and service, providing delegates with high-level menus and culinary creations you’d expect to find in a top-end restaurant.”

Along with partners Wilson Vale, the event – held at Leicester College and followed by a dinner and ceremony at Imago Venues Burleigh Court – was sponsored by Tchibo; Aubrey Allen; Matthew Clark; Boe Gin; Unique Venues Birmingham; Golden Jubilee Conference Hotel; College Court; and Whittlebury Park.

The winners of the Cook and Serve Challenge 2019, were:

Best Starter (Senior): Alex King of Make UK The Hub

Best Main Course (Senior): George Midgeley of Make Venues Woodland Grange

Best Dessert (Senior): Steve Wren of Said Business School

Best Cocktails (Junior): Athina Vasileiou of College Court

Best Cocktails (Senior): Adrian Acsinia of Keele University Events and Conferencing

Best Beverage Selection (Junior): Athina Vasileiou of College Court

Best Beverage Selection (Senior): Anthony Milward of Make UK the Hub

Best Beverage Service (Junior): Regan Quadros of Said Business School

Best Beverage Service (Senior): Alis Stoian of University of Birmingham

Best Food Service (Junior): Athina Vasileiou of College Court

Best Food Service (Senior): Alis Stoian of University of Birmingham

Barry Stonham Best Team Award: Deon Chikwama and Georgia Wood of Burleigh Court

Food Service Champion: Athina Vasileiou of College Court

Champion Chef: Jack Jarman of College Court

Best Venue Catering Service Award: Said Business School