Joe cooks up a storm on challenging TV show

A TALENTED young Ripon Grammar School chef battled through to the semi-finals of a TV cookery competition which challenges youngsters to run a restaurant.

The Step Up to the Plate CBBC show stars First Dates TV restaurant host Fred Sirieix and chef and co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain Allegra McEvedy.

Joe Hewitt, 13, from Kirkby Malzeard, was chosen as a chef on the kitchen crew from more than 2,000 applicants and excelled through several rounds, working in two professional kitchens across four days of filming.

During the heats Joe rose to the challenge of preparing a fresh squid dish and grilling 24 venison steaks for a full lunch service with a medieval theme.

As one of just ten schoolchildren - aged ten to 14 - to win through to the semis, he went on to devise and prepare a dish from a larder of ingredients in 30 minutes, before serving it up to food critic Grace Dent and TV presenter and Great British Bake off contestant Liam Charles

Joe’s creation, a portobello mushroom tart with salad, went down so well he was chosen to take on the highly pressurised head chef’s role during the subsequent lunch service, where his coordination skills and timing were put to the test.

Although he wants to be an RAF pilot when he is older, Joe has a passion for cooking and experimenting with exotic ingredients and spices from all over the world.

Inspired by the River Cottage TV series and travel cookery programmes, he started creating his own dishes in his kitchen at home two years ago: “I Love cooking because it is so diverse and it really gives you an insight into other cultures and peoples' lives,” he explained.

“I really admire Michelin chefs who work in high-end restaurants and serve some of the world's best food but under great pressure in a hard environment and still stay calm.”

Appearing on Step Up to the Plate was a great experience, he added: “It was very different to what I imagined. It gave me a good taste of what it is like to be a chef and I would definitely enter more competitions in the future. It showed me the breadth of talent out there and what other people my age can do. "

His food and nutrition teacher Louise Solden commented: “Joe is an amazing and talented young man. He is incredibly modest for someone who has achieved so much. He talks about food in an incredibly passionate way, with immense insight and vision, so rare in a person of his age. I am very proud of him.”

In order to apply for the programme, Joe had to write to Lion TV, explaining his interest in food and cooking and include photographs of dishes he made. Following a Skype interview with a casting director, he also had to provide a video of himself cooking a meal at home.

Joe’s mother Catherine added: “Joe had a fantastic mentor in Allegra McEvedy, a wonderful chef, broadcaster and writer, who was incredibly encouraging and supportive to all of the kitchen team.”

*The programme is currently on BBC iplayer on the CBBC channel.