Two teenage students have been crowned winners of the Midcounties Create and Cook competitions.

Leon Woolley and Deaken Bhavnani, both 13 years old and from Cirencester Deer Park School, have won the competition which aims to celebrate local food and nurture young talent.

The competition is run by fit2cook food education and sponsored in the Midlands by Best of our Counties, part of Midcounties Coop.

Young cooks from schools across Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire were challenged to create menus using locally-produced ingredients including at least one from the Best of our Counties range.

County heats were held in May and four pairs were chosen to cook their dishes in the Midcounties final at Foodworks Cookery School near Cheltenham on Monday, July 1.

Leon and Deaken won the final with their local goats’ cheese and mushroom ravioli with a wild garlic and hazelnut pesto plus a triple chocolate brownie with Chantilly cream and raspberry coulis and they wowed with their skill and flavour of where they live.

Min Raisman, Director of fit2cook food education who runs the Competition said: “Leon and Deaken had worked really hard sourcing their ingredients – they picked wild garlic from their local canal bank, sourced mushrooms from Stroud Farmers’ Market and used Jess’s Ladies organic cream and Shipton Mill flour as well. They are both passionate cooks who clearly enjoyed every minute of the competition. They are deserving winners.”

On winning, Leon said: “I have wanted to be a chef for as long as I can remember, receiving my first pestle and mortar when I was a toddler!

Deaken added: "This means so much to me. This is amazing, I love cooking and I love food.”

All four teams cooked stunning dishes and the judges found it hard to choose one overall winner. The runners up were Lottie Denne and Isla Mackintosh from The Cotswold School, Bourton on the Water with Hook Norton rack of lamb which they combined with a salsa verde and celeriac mash, plus a berry and macaroon tower; Heidi Preghenella and Alicia Edwards from Matthew Arnold School, Oxford who cooked Polish pierogi with an Oxfordshire twist plus a chicken sausage with jerk spice served with puy lentils and asparagus; Aoife McGuire and Niamh Mulcahy from St Helen and St Katharine, Abingdon who cooked a spiced stuffed billy goat loin with broad bean and pea salad plus a mint and spinach sorbet with honey roasted rhubarb and orange cake.

Other judges were Chef and Owner of Purslane Restaurant in Cheltenham, Gareth Fulford, Matt Fletcher and Georgia Gaston from the Best of our Counties brand.

Matt Fletcher, direct sourcing manager at The Midcounties Co-operative Food, said: “The standard of food that the young cooks created was really impressive. They all did a fantastic job of using locally-produced ingredients to create delicious menus.

“Supporting young people and local suppliers is incredibly important to us and the Create & Cook competition is a fun way for us to get schools into cooking with the amazing ingredients made in Gloucestershire & Oxfordshire.”

Leon and Deaken won £300 for their food technology department and the Midcounties trophy.

They also have their recipes professional photographed and made into recipe cards.

Their teacher Natalie Dearing won a hamper full of local food goodies provided by the Midcounties Coop.

The 2020 competition will be launched in September.


to find out more