Junior chefs turn up the heat for Norwich City College course

The fiery kitchen tantrums of TV chefs were nowhere to be seen as some of the budding young cooks of the future began honing their culinary skills this weekend.

A 10-week junior academy programme was launched on Saturday at the industry-standard training kitchens of City College Norwich, guided by expert chefs from the Hotel School at the campus on Ipswich Road.

Students aged from 10 to 15 will be shown the skills and techniques needed to prepare, cook and present a wide range of dishes.

Although the first lesson was to bake a humble Victoria sponge, they will progress through a menu of modern classics including lasagna al forno, quiche Lorraine, chicken and mushroom pie, chocolate fondant and butternut squash risotto.

Tutors hope the course will be a recipe for success in the kitchen – whether the youngsters crave a professional catering career or simply the know-how to cook healthy, imaginative meals for themselves and their future families

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Barbara Abrahams, curriculum programme manager at the college, said: 'We have got a group of youngsters who watch those programmes like Masterchef and are taking a real interest in food.

'There are some who already plan to make a career at this, and then there's the other youngsters who just really love it. It prepares them for a career, or it prepares them for going to university when they will have to fend for themselves.

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'It is not 'kiddy cooking'. They will be moving on to some quite sophisticated dishes.

'Our experience of young people is that if you have high expectations of their practical skills, they will deliver. If you say: 'Today we are making a chicken and mushroom pie', they will just get on and do it. If you don't tell them its difficult, they won't think it's difficult.'

Among the young chefs was Oscar Ross Jolly, a 13-year-old City of Norwich School student from Belvoir Street in Norwich, who said although he enjoyed TV cookery shows his main inspiration came from closer to home.

'It is probably my mum, really,' he said. 'It is one of the things I've found that I'm really good at. I have come here to learn the techniques more than the recipes. I would really like to have a career in cooking, ideally running a chain of restaurants. This is the first professional course I have come to, but I have been doing it from recipe books as much as possible at home.'

The Junior Academy runs on Saturday mornings until March 24. The college will also hold a two-week summer school for junior chefs starting on July 23.

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