Professional cookery students from North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College will jet off to Colombia as part of their prize after securing the top spot in the UK Young Restaurant Team of the Year competition.

The students, Callum Wood, Dean Burnham and Caitlan Holland, worked together to create a three-course menu inspired by Latin American cuisine that made use of exotic ingredients including black quinoa, cancha corn, chimichurri and purple potatoes.

The team triumphed over commercial restaurant teams from Colette’s at The Grove Hotel and Fischer’s and Rowley’s in Baslow, as well as their peers from Kendal College and Loughborough College, at the grand final which took place at the University of Sheffield. Special guest judge was the world-famous Michelin starred-chef, Robert Ortiz from Peru.

The students will fly to Colombia in September on a week-long study trip visiting the capital, Bogotá, the Granjer Luker cocoa research centre and plantation, and a coffee plantation. Whilst in Colombia, the students will get the chance to sample Latin American cuisine in the top restaurants.

In addition to the top prize, the students also came home with the Best Service Award and the Ignite for Innovation Award which were presented to them at the gala awards dinner held in the Skills for Chefs conference centre.

Catering lecturer Jason Thacker, who mentored the students to success in the competition, said, “I am totally blown away with this result. The students worked extremely hard for this, coming into college in their own time and practising up to three days each week.

“They were up against some very tough competition in the final, but all of their hard work, commitment and dedication has been rewarded. They are now looking forward to going out to Colombia to learn more about the Latin American lifestyle and its cuisine.”

Judges were full of praise for the students who gambled on changing their starter and main course between the semi final and the final to demonstrate how they had taken on board the feedback they had received during the competition.

College Principal and Chief Executive, Marion Plant, OBE FCGI, said, “This is a fantastic achievement for our students and we are very proud of them. They have demonstrated great tenacity in working so hard to reach their goals and they are now set to enjoy a thrilling overseas experience that they will never forget. This is a brilliant start for their future careers in the catering and hospitality industry. Congratulations to the whole team!”