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Budding chef wins place in Olive It! finals

Anna Johnston

A catering student from Sunderland College is being pitted against other young chefs in the live finals of an olive-themed cooking competition.

Anna Johnston, 17, from Sunderland College has battled her way through to the final stage of the Olive it! catering competition for young chefs.

Excelling in creativity, innovation and true passion, Anna’s olive-inspired menu saw her beat catering students from all around the UK for the chance to be crowned champion at the live cook-off in London.

Anna, from Houghton-le-Spring, is studying a Level 1 Diploma in Preparing for a Career in the Hospitality Industry at the college. She said: “When I found out I was through to the finals I felt disbelief and was in shock. I feel proud of myself and am very happy that I have got to this stage of the competition.”

The Olive it! catering competition aims to raise awareness of one of the most highly celebrated Mediterranean foods – the humble table olive. Partnering with Spanish chef Omar Allibhoy, the competition seeks to unearth culinary talent by challenging students to create a three-course menu, with each dish incorporating green or black olives as principal ingredients.

Anna will travel to London with the other seven finalists for the final judging event – a live cook off on 27 May. As temperatures get set to rise in the kitchen, each contestant will have to recreate their menu and present their final dishes to some of the most influential names in the industry, including the five judges; chef Omar, Ignacio Pérez, Lisa Jenkins of Caterer & Hotelkeeper, Joel Fagg from PACE and Urvashi Roe at The Botanical Baker.

Anna impressed the judges with her creative flair and fresh thinking. The unique pairing of flavours, mature recipe ingredients and unrivalled outside-the-box thinking stood out to the judges above the rest of the entries.

In the live finals, Anna will be bringing her recipes to life in front of the judges. Her starter will be tomato and olive marinade with olive bruschetta, followed by her main of Spanish style roast chicken with peppers and olives, and almond olive oil cake and olive oil gelato for dessert.

Omar Allibhoy said: “The competition is all about the creativity, flair and passion of the young chefs. The finalists’ menus have revolutionised the conventional idea of the table olive. They show that table olives as more than just a pre-dinner snack and highlight the culinary potential of olives when combined with other ingredients.

“I’ve seen lots of versatility in the menus created by the students and I’m very impressed with the delicious array of dishes thought up by all the contestants. I’m looking forward to working with whoever wins the Olive it! catering competition and I wish all the finalists the best of luck!”

Ignacio Perez, of Interaceituna added: “As a Spaniard where olives are part of our everyday meals, I love seeing them become stars of menu creation. Going through the recipes developed by the students, I have rediscovered the versatility of olives and the finalists have clearly put a lot of effort into coming up with exciting concepts. I’m looking forward to seeing the eight finalists battle it out and share our passion for olives.”

The lucky winner of the Olive it! competition will receive an all-inclusive gastronomic weekend for two in Spain worth £4,000, as well as £400 worth of chef’s professional equipment of their choice. In addition to this, the winner will also receive the priceless experience of a one-week placement at Omar Allibhoy’s award winning restaurant Tapas Revolution.

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