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20th March 2024

Springboard FutureChef crowns Reese Ventura as competition winner

Written by: Edward Waddell
Reese Ventura, a 15-year-old from St Philomena's Catholic School for Girls in London, has been crowned the 25th champion of Springboard FutureChef.

It is a competition to find the UK’s best young chef, and Reese emerged victorious after more than 13,000 students from 515 schools entered.

The national final took place at Westminster Kingsway College in London, with 12 schoolchildren from across the UK battling it out for the top spot. Competitors had two hours and 45 minutes to prepare a main course and dessert for a panel of industry judges including Adam Handling, Chantelle Nicholson and Graeme Cheevers.

Since winning her regional heat in London, Reese worked with her mentor chef Franky Fernandes, executive chef at London Marriott Hotel Park Lane, to hone her skills and create dishes to impress the judges.

The winning menu was a main of mushroom stuffed chicken ballotine with caramelised cauliflower, fondant potato, purple sprouting broccoli, butternut squash and tarragon jus. The dessert was a deconstructed tiramisu consisting of cannoli, chocolate whipped ganache and coffee jelly.  

Commenting on her win, Reese said: “I want to pinch myself to see if it’s real… I can’t believe I made it here. Even yesterday, people were asking me ‘do you want to be a chef?’ and I didn’t know. But since winning, it’s a sign to go into hospitality, and it will help me in the future.”

FutureChef is the UK’s largest school culinary programme, run by hospitality charity Springboard. Now in its 25th year, FutureChef has supported more than 225,000 young people, teaching them how to cook, developing their skills and inspiring them to go on to work in some of the UK’s very best kitchens.

David Mulcahy, FutureChef chairman and food innovation and sustainability director at Sodexo UK & Ireland, added: “Reese stepped above everybody else. It was a fantastic competition. Twelve very, very close people in terms of their abilities. I can’t believe that a 14, 15, 16 year-old can cook to that level, at that age. And she’s a worthy winner, but a tough competition – and what a great 25th celebration.”

The two FutureChef runners-up were Iris Bedford, a 13-year-old from Rodillian Academy in Leeds representing the North East and Freya Barrett, a 15-year-old from Penrice Academy in Cornwall representing the South West region.

Barrett received the Brian Turner ‘Award for Taste’ by FutureChef Lifetime Ambassador Turner, who said: "Today's winner created dishes that looked good and tasted good – dishes that said, ‘I'd like some more please'."

As part of the 25th anniversary celebrations, April Lily Partridge won the Outstanding Achievement Award in the inaugural FutureChef Alumni Awards. Others collecting Alumni Awards, include 2023 FutureChef national finalist Amber Rissmann who won the Future Talent Award and Hayley Cancea, 2013 FutureChef champion, who won the Services to Springboard Award.