‘Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2021’ Inspires Next Generation of Culinary Stars Through Apprenticeship Taster Scheme

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No Repro Fee Pictured at the Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2021 . The inaugural competition took place in the Limerick Strand Hotel on Wednesday 19th May, where 4 Transition Year students from schools across Limerick and Clare competed in a 2-hour live culinary competition. The initiative, run by Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board’s College of FET Hospitality Campus in Limerick, is aligned with the national FET strategy to integrate ‘taster’ vocational courses into second level education. Pic. Brian Arthur

A NEW apprenticeship ‘taster’ scheme for transition years with an interest in the hospitality industry as a career has proven highly popular with students across the Limerick and Clare region over the past academic year.

The initiative, run by Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board’s College of FET Hospitality Campus in Limerick, is aligned with the national FET strategy to integrate ‘taster’ vocational courses into second level education.

Since last September, Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board schools participated in two different hospitality taster courses specifically developed for transition years: a junior chef ‘apprenticeship taster’ and a barista skills taster. Running over eight-week cycles, one day a week, the courses were aimed at students who have an interest in the hospitality sector as a career, or in learning an essential skill for life.

The Junior Chef ‘Apprenticeship Taster’ course was run by a team of professional executive chefs from the ETB’s Hospitality Campus and the Panel of Chefs of Ireland. The taster course culminated in today’s competition specifically for transition year students – the Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2021.

One student finalist was selected from four schools across the region to represent their school in the 2-hour live culinary grand final in the Limerick Strand Hotel kitchen. Fionn Kennedy, a TY student from Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh was the overall competition winner and received the 1st Place Gold Medal.

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Speaking virtually at today’s inaugural competition, Minister for Further & Higher Education, Research, Innovation & Science, Simon Harris TD, said: “As our country now, thankfully, begins to re-open, and as we try to re-emerge from what has been such a difficult pandemic, there is no doubt that hospitality is going to bring life back into the villages, towns and cities right across our country and the Shannon region will be no different in that regard.”

He continued: “I know we’re all looking forward to a vibrant hospitality sector returning and that requires really skilled people working in the industry, so congratulations to everyone involved in this initiative, I wish you all the very best.”

Chief Executive of Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, George O’Callaghan, who opened the competition, spoke about how important the event was for those taking part. He said: “I would like to congratulate all of the schools and Transition Year students involved in today’s competition fromGaelcholáiste Luimnigh, Thomond Community College, Gaelcholáiste an Chláir and Mungret Community College.”

He continued: “I would like to congratulate our Further Education and Training Division and our Schools Division on this fantastic initiative. I would also like to thank our team of professional executive chefs from the ETB’s Hospitality Campus and the Panel of Chefs of Ireland who have helped make today’s competition for our transition year students a reality.”

Students got to choose local fresh produce and cook them in the professional kitchen with an eye on healthy eating, especially food that supports good mental health for life. One of the competition judges was Tom Flavin, Executive Chef, Limerick Strand Hotel. He said: “I’ve seen at first hand the benefits of the apprenticeship system to develop the next generation of chefs. This ‘apprenticeship taster’ course and the Shannon Region Junior Chef of the Year 2021 competition is helping significantly to encourage, nurture and mentor second level students who want to pursue careers in the hospitality industry.”

The College of FET Hospitality Campus, operated by Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board’s Further Education and Training Division, is dedicated to providing the highest level of culinary and hospitality training. It has built strong relationships within the Irish hospitality industry since its inception and links its learners directly with employment opportunities. It provides skills training in multiple areas of the hospitality sector.

Bernadette Enright, Centre Manager, said: “Our centre is unique in that it delivers specific skills training directed at finding future employment in the hospitality industry. The secret to our success is the collaboration between all the different partners. We are highly industry-focused and continually liaise with the sector to adapt to changing skills needs.”