Using locally-sourced seafood and produce, two Abbey VS Donegal students impressed the judges to earn their place in the grand final of the cooking contest.

Chloe Boyle and Aimee Gallagher, pupils from Abbey Vocational School, have been named regional finalists in the 2018 Mount Charles Big School Cook Off, progressing to the grand finale in March.

The Mount Charles Big School Cook Off, in association with the Irish News and Business in the Community, was created to inspire young people to think about healthy eating and food provenance, and to encourage them to consider a future career in the hospitality industry.

Almost 200 entries were shortlisted down to 52 teams of 11-14 year olds, who all participated in regional heats across the country to secure their place in the final. Each team was asked to cook a main course for two people, based on local produce and with a budget of £5 per meal.

Pictured celebrating Abbey Vocational College’s win at the Donegal regional heat of the Big School Cook Off are (left to right) Mary Keeney (Home Economics teacher), Amy Gallagher (Pupil), Caitriona Lennox (Big School Cook Off Ambassador at Mount Charles), Chloe Boyle (Pupil), Simon Toye (Group Development Chef at Mount Charles) and Gladys Stewart (Home Economics teacher).


Winning duo Chloe and Aimee cooked a dish of Killybegs salmon with a gazpacho salsa and saddleback garlic potatoes, beating off stiff competition from Scoil Mhuire, Milford, to win the Donegal heat.

Head of the Home Economics Department at Abbey Vocational College Gladys Stewart said: “We are incredibly proud of Chloe and Aimee for winning the county heat of the Big School Cook Off and making it to the final.

“The girls have really enjoying taking part and the competition has provided great experience for their Junior Certificate practical exam which takes place in a few weeks.

“They have demonstrated excellent teamwork and have been incredible under pressure! We are all very excited about the next stage of the competition and we cannot wait to see what the other counties will be cooking up!”

The full list of the eight school teams that have sliced, diced and cooked their way to a place in the final are as follows:

Abbey Community College, Donegal
Aquinas Diocesan Grammar School, Belfast
Ballymena Academy
St Aidan’s High School, Derrylin
St Catherine’s College, Armagh
St Mary’s College, Derry
Holy Cross College, Strabane
Banbridge Academy

Each county winning team has won £200 for their school and a masterclass in cookery from Mount Charles Group Development Chef, Simon Toye, previously Executive Chef at the Michelin-starred Deanes restaurant in Belfast.

The final will take place at Belfast Metropolitan College, Titanic Quarter Campus, on 21st March.

The overall winning team at the grand final will win £300 for their school as well as a treat for their family, with a meal at the award winning George’s of The Market restaurant and family tickets to see the Belfast Giants ice hockey team at the SSE Arena.