TALENTED young chefs cooked up a storm at a Christchurch Food Festival competition yesterday.

The youngsters from Christchurch secondary schools found themselves under the watchful eye of chef Lesley Waters, patron of the popular festival.

The Junior Chef of the Year competition pitches Year 10 students from The Grange, Highcliffe and Twynham against each other to see whose food tastes and looks the best.

It is organised by the Food Festival Education Trust and supported by Christchurch Rotary Club.

All the competitors were asked to design a two-course anniversary meal of their choice, with just 90 minutes to cook it.

The winners from each school will battle it out in the grand final of the competition on Monday May 12.

The judging panel, consisting of Lesley Waters, president of the festival Mary Reader, president of Christchurch Rotary David Crumpler and local chefs Ian Hewitt and Ian Gibbs, had a difficult job deciding on the winners.

The Grange School winner was judged to be Grace Voller with her pan fried chicken and pasta and dessert of individual strawberry and raspberry puddings.

Top place at Highcliffe School went to Rebecca Summers who cooked five-spice roasted duck breast with a cherry and shiraz sauce and sesame noodles followed by a mango fool with an almond tuile biscuit and chocolate work.

The Twynham School winner was Niall O’Brien who cooked up lamb parcels with cranberry sauce and dauphinoise potatoes followed by summer clafoutis with double cream.

Lesley Waters said: “As always with this competition I’m amazed at the professionalism of the dishes the students come up with in such a short of space of time.

“The level of cooking just goes from strength to strength and I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about some of these students in our restaurants in the future.”