top of page

Passion to Inspire Competition



The heat was most certainly on in the training kitchens at Colchester Institute on Tuesday 13th June , as catering and hospitality teams from the West Suffolk College, Cambridge Regional College, Colchester Institute , City College Norwich, Redbridge  College of West Anglia competed for the title of ‘A Passion to Inspire’ winners, 2017.


After a tough competition, it was announced that Colchester Institute made up of chefs Amy Brown, Jade Walmsley and Hazel Webb – were named the winners. They will keep the Winners plate from Steelite UK and the Trophy ( which is passed on each year - thank you Allan at Nurtured in Norfolk ) 


Merit Certificates were given to Jimmy Andrews, Sam Gooby and Jack Noden from Cambridge Regional College - who came a very close Second and Reilly Hogwood, Brandon Finch and Chloe Smith also from Colchester Institute - who with only 48 hours notice  stepped in as a team unfortunately pulled out - Chef Finch  " thank you for letting us have this chance to be involved -thank you - we really enjoyed the experience "


The heats and final of ‘A Passion to Inspire’ stand out from other hospitality and catering skills competitions because of their focus on every aspect of the process, from students’ knowledge of produce, to designing and costing their menus, and exceptional front of house presentation and service of food and drink. The competition also seeks to bring added benefits to the participating students and colleges by creating new links between professional chefs, suppliers of local produce , Partners and further education – and giving the chance for all students to have a go and be inspired.


To reach the final, the teams of three students from each of the Six  colleges had to come through an earlier round of heats, with over 100 students being involved and inspired. The student teams were each made up of two chefs and one front of house member. Prior to the final, each student team was paired with a top local chef as their mentor for the final.


Special Guests invited  this year were Andrew Bennett MBE and Sarah Hartnett - " Congratulations to  all the teams involved on a hugely successful final today and Sarah and myself thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience - Great College's and Great Students make a Great competition -  What more can I say "



A Passion to Inspire is designed to create strong links between cookery schools and local employers. Richard Russum, who sponsors the chef jackets and uniform, said: “This is one of the few competitions that mixes students with mentoring and the industry. It really drives up the standards and really showcases what the college can put out there.”


 The teams prepared a 2 course meal - with an Amuse  to be served by a front of house team member with one of the two courses containing an element that was prepared at the table. Their food was judged by some of the best employers and chefs across the country: Shara Ross - General Manager of Hotel Felix , Mark Poynton –Chef/Patron of Restaurant Alimentum , Eric Snaith - Chef / Owner at Titchwell Manor, Russell Bateman – Head Chef of Colettes - The Grove Hotel, Nick Mills - Director at Brasteds and Nick Claxton Webb – Head Chef at Oaksmere




Chef Judge Russell Bateman  said: “I was the same age as these competitors when I took part in my first catering competition. It’s good to be involved with these sorts of events as I think it is important to help inspire the next generation of chefs. We always need to bring new people into the restaurant workforce, so it’s imperative that the younger generation are excited about food and ‘A Passion to Inspire’ encompasses that.”



Chef Judge Nick Claxton-Webb, Head Chef at Oaksmere and a judge on the panel, said: “I got involved with this competition quite a few years ago to see what’s going on in the training kitchens at these colleges. It’s a great way of us working together to find creative students. We’ve seen a lot of creativity and innovation in the room and some really good food.”



Aside from taking the prestigious culinary title, the winning team, Colchester Institute also won a chance to attend this year’s Skills for Chefs Conference in Sheffield, on 5th and 6th July, with accommodation. The event will be attended by fantastic chefs such as Cyrus Todiwala, Tom Kerridge, Claire Clark, Paul Cunningham , Rupert Rowley ,  to name but a few.


Partners also gave generous prizes (see below).



Judge Shara Ross said: “It’s really interesting to see the competition progress over the years. I’m really keen to promote female chefs in the kitchen and it’s great to see so many females behind the stoves today - and of course the winning team of female chefs". 



The produce for the day was supplied by partner companies (full list below). Partner Company Anglia Produce- Adam Ringrose " Anglia Produce is proud to be involved with ‘A Passion To Inspire’ as we believe this to be an important experience for our future chefs.  We need to support our young chefs to help them as they go into the industry.  I am a  Passionate  chef myself , and passionate about helping the students with seasonal, local fruit and vegetable choices for their menus. We are fully committed to ‘A Passion To Inspire’ and look forward to seeing the competition grow over the years to come.




Huge congratulations to all involved in this year’s competition. Judge Mark Poynton said: “ This year has been breath taking - all the finalists are winners - Well done to the students from Colchester - especially for making the best dish I have ever tasted in 7 years of being involved " - ( note - the dessert ) 


Chef Judge Eric Snaith said: “I have been involved with this competition from the start. It’s really important that the students get to meet us, the local chefs, and for us to give them the support they need in the industry. We want to see them brave enough to get out there and take on the jobs that we need filling. The standard seems to get better every year; a few little mistakes but some real highlights and overall a fantastic day.”

bottom of page