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Hell’s Kitchen TV chef Jean-Christophe Novelli praises Grimsby Institute contest

The Frenchman, well known for his appearances on TV show Hell's Kitchen, was in town to judge the annual UK Young Seafood Chef Of The Year competition.

Now in its 17th year, the contest took place at the Grimsby Institute's University Centre yesterday, featuring students from colleges across the country.

Grimsby Institute duo Victoria Hamilton and Emma Higham were among the teams tasked with creating a three-course seafood meal for the judges.

They were one of five teams to be given a merit award.

They prepared baked salmon for starter, a roulade of plaice for the intermediate, and pan-fried seabass for the main course.

Victoria, 19, who is about to take up a full-time position in the kitchen at Grimsby Golf Club, said: "It was great, nerve-racking but really good."

Emma, who has secured a work experience placement in Italy, said: "It was very scary when we started but everything went well. I've been into cooking for about for about four years. It's just so rewarding and satisfying."

First prize went to Amy Hawthorne and Michael Balding, from South Essex College.

Amy, 19, said: "I'm very pleased. It's a great opportunity. It was very nerve-racking being judged by Jean-Christophe Novelli, but it was good to meet him in person."

Michael, 20, said: "Cooking seafood is a challenge. It pushes you more to your limits."

Mr Novelli praised the skill of the young chefs and told the Grimsby Telegraph he was delighted to be supporting such a "special competition".

He said: "What really excites me is that you are involving colleges and young kids. They are the future. Never underestimate the potential of kids.

"In the kitchen, this is a chance for anyone. It is fantastic! I wish I was one of them."

Mr Novelli, who left school at 14 to work in a bakery before becoming a personal chef to the Rothschild family, added: "I remember my first competition – I didn't sleep. I was so excited.

"These people are stepping into something very important. They have been waiting for a long time for this. It is like a World Cup final or FA Cup final to them.

"I can see it in their eyes. They take no prisoners. Every competition I do in this country I am shocked at how serious they take it.

"This is what this country has got. It is a very competitive country. In France we didn't have that and we still don't have it."

The chef, who moved to Britain in 1983, working at several establishments before opening his first restaurant in London in 1996, added: "It makes a difference when you have that motivation, spirit and discipline and the sense of wanting to win. That is a virtue.

"I like people who want to succeed. It is beautiful. I have always been competitive – that is why I recognise it."

He said he was keen to promote fish as a tasty dish, adding: "Food is a massive element in our diet and it is still understated. It is quite sad. We live on an island and technology is moving on but we are still quite slow in understanding the importance of fish in our diets. Also, it is very pleasurable."

He also revealed that the fish for his award-winning Novelli Academy in Hertfordshire is supplied by a Grimsby fish merchant, IK Fish.

He said: "I go to Harpenden every week to buy my fish and I see the woman with the van who comes from Grimsby. It is a van full of fish. It's like a van full of gold!

"The fish for my last cookery book was supplied from Grimsby. I work with a lot of people in Grimsby."