Sophia O’Leary (16) from Midleton College, was one of two students to be awarded the title of Supreme Apprentice Chef at the 2019 Apprentice Chef Schools Programme sponsored by Flogas and Failte Ireland. Sophia’s entry was the first vegetarian dish to ever capture the coveted Supreme Apprentice Chef Award as her Thai vegetable cakes, stirfried pak choi and pickled cucumber proved a winner with the judges. The educational initiative for secondary students now in its seventh successful year and it was established by Mark Doe of justcooking.ie and Mark Murphy, senior lecturer in Culinary Arts at IT Tralee. This year, due to the level of interest from schools throughout Munster, it was divided into two finals, with Sophia O’Leary triumphing in the south-east final at Waterford IT on 16 May and Ellie Sugrue (17) from Mercy Mounthhawk College in Tralee winning the south-west final on 9th May at IT Tralee .
The theme of the Apprentice Chef project is ‘Good Mood Food’, to promote the importance of healthy eating in overall personal physical and mental wellbeing, as well as combating obesity and other health issues. Each finalist’s dish had to include ‘good mood foods’ based on seasonality, availability, locally produced and fresh unprocessed ingredients.
The two girls were each presented with a €1,000 voucher for their schools’ home economics department, in addition to a monogrammed chef’s uniform, work experience in a 5-star Hotel and set of professional knives. Both of them will also travel to Easy Food’s test kitchen, where they will cook their chosen dish, and their winning dishes will be published in the Easy Food magazine.
In addition, all the finalists were presented with a chef’s uniform, certificate and specially monogrammed chopping board. Their schools will also receive a one-day cookery workshop from the Apprentice Chef culinary team.
Co-founders Mark Murphy of IT Tralee and Mark Doe of justcooking.ie are delighted with the response to date and plan to expand the Programme even further over the next few years. Mark Murphy said, “Congratulations to Sophia and Ellie on their fantastic achievements and, thanks to the support of our sponsors Flogas and Failte Ireland, over 4,000 secondary school students have been involved in culinary mentoring workshops as part of the Apprentice Chef Schools Programme. It is part of a three year strategy to target 60 schools in Munster and expanding to secondary schools in Connacht in 2020 and a possible national event in 2021 or 2022.”
Mark Doe added, “The Apprentice Chef team is committed to running an educational programme that has viable learning outcomes for all who take part. The workshops and the mentoring process ensure that every student taking part benefits enormously from the experience. None of this would be possible without the support of our sponsors, Flogas Ireland and Failte Ireland, and we’re looking forward to working with them in the years to come as we continue to grow and develop the Apprentice Chef Schools Programme.”