A student from Newcastle College is hoping to take away first prize at a national curry cooking contest after being mentored by the current North East Chef of the Year.
Abel Petho, 18 and from Northumberland Park, North Tyneside, will go head-to-head with around six other young cooks at this year’s Junior Curry Chef Competition to find out if his traditional lamb masala dish is second to naan, after perfecting the recipe with the help of John Connell, who was crowned North East Chef of the Year last year.
Abel, who is studying a VRQ2 Diploma in Professional Cookery at Newcastle College, has been learning from one of the best in the business, with John previously working at The Savoy in London, as well as a London restaurant ran by Marco Pierre White.
The competition, which takes place at Bradford College on April 9, will see the young curry chef hopefuls prepare, cook and present two portions of a main course curry dish, with additional accompaniments, within a 90 minute time limit.
As well as judging who has the best baltis and most perfect pakora, the panel of curry experts will be looking at elements such as preparation, organisation in the kitchen and wastage, and will also be quizzing the cooks as to their reasons for choosing some of their more exotic ingredients.
Abel, who met John during his recent visit to the college’s Chef’s Academy to carry out a cookery master class, is now confident that his dish will impress the judges and that he won’t be left with tears on his pilau, after perfecting the recipe with the help of his family and friends.
Abel, who is originally from Hungary, said: “My parents have been really encouraging and have been more than happy to taste my curries in the run up to the competition!
“I have always wanted to be a chef ever since I can remember and now that I have worked alongside someone of John’s caliber, I’m confident that I can impress the judges.”
The young chef now wants to gain industry experience working in a kitchen before continuing his training at Newcastle College.
John said: “Abel has impressed me with his keenness to learn and his passion for Indian food. It’s always great to be able to pass on advice and guidance to youngsters as the catering industry can be a difficult one to make your name in. I have always been impressed by the level of new catering talent coming out of Newcastle College, which, in no small part, has been supported by some of the best training facilities in the country.”
Photo caption - L-R: North East Chef of the Year John Connell and Junior Curry Chef Competition hopeful Abel Petho.