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An aspiring chef from Merton College cooked up a three course storm to be crowned the winner of the district final of the Rotary Club's Junior Chef Challenge. Held at our £5.7m Hospitality and Catering Academy which opened in September, the competition saw 17-year-old Mark Shields beat 11 other entrants to the top spot.

merton college hospitality and catering Mark Shields web story image

He impressed the judges with his winning three course meal of asparagus with king prawn and a poached duck egg to start, followed by stuffed chicken breast with cous cous and salsa verde and a strawberry and lemon cheesecake with strawberry coulis.

Mark from Morden said: “I was really pleased when I found out I’d won, I didn’t think I stood much of a chance especially as everyone’s food was of such a high standard. I’ve really enjoyed my course so far, studying at the Academy has been much better than I expected. Learning new skills and gaining confidence doing something you love has been great.”

The annual event was attended by Deputy Mayor of Merton, Councillor John Sargeant, who presented prizes to Mark and runners-up Jessie Dang, also a professional cookery student from Merton College, and Ben Acott, from Farnborough.

Barry Bramley of Morden Rotary Club, which organised the competition, said: "The facilities at the College are outstanding. The standard was very good, and the judges seemed very excited by what was being dished up."

The students went through to the next heat on Saturday 8 March in Weybridge where they were just pipped to a place in the final.