Ellie cooks way through to regional finals

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Is she a budding Blumenthal, or a Mary Berry in the making?

Talented young cook Ellie Lee regularly earns school lesson brownie points for her imaginative presentation skills. She can tackle anything – but her heart belongs to baking.

The Birley Community College 16 year old has cooked her way through to the regional finals of a national schools cookery contest.

Ellie has just been crowned South Yorkshire champion in the annual FutureChef 2013 competition, in which contestants had to devise a two-course meal on a tight budget.

Ellie’s deconstructed butternut squash, ricotta and spinach lasagne – with hand-made pasta and a sage butter topping – followed by meringue, fruit and cream layer impressed the judges.

She will now cook against winning teen chefs from right across the north east region – which stretches from Northumberland to East and West Yorkshire.

“We are all extremely proud of Ellie. It is wonderful for an enthusiastic and committed young person to gain recognition for her passion for creating food,” said her food technology teacher Lindsay Jackson.

“She’s busily working on her dishes for the next round of the contest. Ellie is such a perfectionist. I have got some really talented pupils at Birley but it’s only once in a while you get ones as gifted and as dedicated as Ellie.

“She has a natural flair and is determined to get everything spot on. She cooked her winning meal at home so many times, her family were getting a bit fed up of eating it.”

Striving to present food in a striking and attractive way is one of Ellie’s strengths, said Lindsay. “But baking is her real forté. She says her nanna has been her inspiration.

“At Christmas Ellie made the most wonderful gingerbread house. It had real fairy-lights inside it.

Ellie, who is about to take her GCSEs, confirmed: “I am so happy to have won, my family are so proud of me! I inherited my passion for food from them. I am so very determined to get through the next stage – it is time to up my game.”

The heat will be on when Ellie and her rivals meet for the regional final at Sheffield Hallam University on Valentine’s Day. The ultimate winner, to be decided in a cook-off at the National Final on March 18 in London, could win work experience in professional kitchen.