• Cyril McAree

Munster Teens are Supreme Apprentice Chefs for 2019


The heat was on at the south-east final of the Apprentice Chef Schools Programme, sponsored by Flogas and Failte Ireland, at Waterford IT on Thursday 16 May 2019 as (from left) Ellie Sugrue (17) from Mercy Mounthawk School in Tralee and Sophia O’Leary (16) from Midleton College, Cork were announced as the 2019 Supreme Apprentice Chefs. Mr John Halligan, Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, paid a visit to Waterford IT on the day to see the young finalists in action.

The educational initiative for secondary students now in its seventh successful year and was established by Mark Doe of justcooking.ie and Mark Murphy, senior lecturer in Culinary Arts at IT Tralee. This year, due to the level of interest from schools throughout Munster, it was divided into two finals, with Ellie Sugrue winning the south-west final on 9th May at IT Tralee and Sophia O’Leary triumphing in the south-east final at Waterford IT on 16 May.

The theme of the Apprentice Chef project is ‘Good Mood Food’, to promote the importance of healthy eating in overall personal physical and mental wellbeing, as well as combating obesity and other health issues. Each finalist’s dish had to include ‘good mood foods’ based on seasonality, availability, locally produced and fresh unprocessed ingredients.

Ellie’s dish was a beetroot fondant with raspberry meringues, lime curd and a chocolate soil (choc crumb topping). Sophia’s dish was the first vegetarian to capture the top spot, it was Thai vegetable cakes, stirfried pak choi and pickled cucumber.

A delighted Ellie and Sophia were each presented with a €1,000 voucher for their schools’ home economics department, in addition to a monogrammed chef’s uniform, work experience in a 5-star Hotel and set of professional knives. Ellie and Sophia will also travel to Easy Food’s test kitchen, where they will cook their chosen dish, and their winning dishes will be published in the Easy Food magazine.

Every finalist was presented with a chef’s uniform, certificate and specially monogrammed chopping board. Their schools will also receive a one-day cookery workshop from the Apprentice Chef culinary team.

Co-founders Mark Murphy of IT Tralee and Mark Doe of justcooking.ie are delighted with the response to date and plan to expand the Programme even further over the next few years. Mark Murphy said, “To date, with the support of our sponsors Flogas and Failte Ireland, over 4,000 secondary school students have been involved in culinary mentoring workshops as part of the Apprentice Chef Schools Programme. It is part of a three year strategy to target 60 schools in Munster and expanding to secondary schools in Connacht in 2020 and a possible national event in 2021 or 2022.”

Mark Doe added, “The Apprentice Chef team is committed to running an educational programme that has viable learning outcomes for all who take part. The workshops and the mentoring process ensure that every student taking part benefits enormously from the experience. None of this would be possible without the support of our sponsors, Flogas Ireland and Failte Ireland, and we’re looking forward to working with them in the years to come as we continue to grow and develop the Apprentice Chef Schools Programme.”


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