Food is such a personal thing.
Your desert island dish may not float my culinary boat, whilst my idea of food heaven may be your notion of hell on a dinner plate. So I truly do admire anyone who is prepared to put themselves and their food forward to be judged and publicly criticised or praised, as the case may be.
I was reminded of that fact as the first ever season of MasterChef Ireland kicked off last week, and a batch of 50 hopefuls submitted their dishes to be scrutinised by Michelin-starred chef Dylan McGrath and restaurateur Nick Munier. The cooking abilities of the 16 who made it through the initial round will, no doubt, be tested to their limits – and then some – over the next few weeks, and their every kitchen drama will be played out on screen as they vie for the final and not-to-be-sniffed-at prize of €25,000.
Compared to MasterChef’s ordeal by television, Chef Factor, dreamed up by those makers of ready-to-go soups, pies and hot-pots, Cully and Sully, involves less of a public trial. The competition, which returns for its second outing this year, has, like MasterChef, a substantial prize attached: in this case, a much coveted place on the 12 week Ballymaloe cookery course, worth over €12,000, along with the opportunity to spend two weeks with Cully and Sully learning the ins and outs of a food business. Entry into the competition is a pretty simple affair:
To put your name into the Chef Factor pot, upload a photo of yourself along with your chosen dish, and with the words “Cully & Sully” somewhere in the image. Submit this to cheffactor.ie, with a brief explanation of the dish and the reason why you (naturally) deserve to win.
Four finalists will be determined by public vote and two wildcards will be handpicked by Cully and Sully to go through, regardless of voting performance. Entries are already being accepted and the winner is expected to be chosen, with the help of Darina and Rachel Allen, in Ballymaloe on Saturday the 26th of November.
As distinct from MasterChef, where your cookery skills need to be pretty well honed to begin with, Chef Factor – with its prize of professional training in a renowned cookery school – is for somebody who wants to learn how to cook and to develop their own career in food. Last year’s winner, Christine Crowley, is now running her own tea-rooms and certainly seems to have benefited from the experience. So, if you think you’ve got the will to make it in the food business, then Chef Factor might just be the way.
Even if you don’t want to put yourself or your favourite dish forward for the likes of Chef Factor, you might, perhaps, be tickled by the inclusion of your recipe in a cookbook.
Zara Flynn – whose father is a quality butcher in Waterford and runs one of the oldest family butcheries in Ireland – is starting a campaign to collect Irish people’s favourite meat recipes into one collection, with a view to publication as a cookbook.
If you have a recipe you’d like to submit, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your recipe along with your name, email address, phone number and where you are from. Alternatively, you can find more information or contact them via their facebook page.