A Master Chef at work as TV show finalist visits Darlington College to work with students

A Master Chef finalist has been throwing some magic into the mix as he inspires the next generation of catering students.

Mike Bartley was invited to work with level 3 catering students from Darlington College as they prepare to produce a tasting menu to remember with ingredients foraged from the countryside.

The 35-year-old was knocked out of the 2021 Master Chef contest by the eventual winner Tom Rhodes but ever since has been approached with offers of work, to the point where he quit his day job to go freelance.

A former St John’s Catholic School student, of Bishop Auckland, who now lives in Crook, he now spends his time cooking for private clients and staging demonstrations around the country on his particular brand of cooking which involves wild foraging for ingredients.

After meeting catering lecturer Dawn Cobb-Neate at a food festival he agreed to join up with Darlington College to present a tasting menu in the Glasshouse Restaurant on April 7. Mike will also take level 5 FdAs students foraging and host a dessert masterclass with the students.

As a prelude to the tasting event he spent the day with level 3 catering students practising the menu, including a course from his BBC show appearance that will feature venison, damson ketchup and wood sorrel.

“The students have been great to work with and I’m a bit envious of them as I didn’t follow the same route as them,” he said.

“I started cooking as a student and really got into it. Then I started reading lots of books on cooking, adapting recipes and also watching chefs on YouTube. After Master Chef the offers starting coming in. So I quit my job on the Monday, got married on the Thursday and moved house. The quality of life is great.

“I spent some time at Tommy Banks’ restaurant Roots, in York, which was amazing and I feel I learnt such a lot.”

Catering lecturer Dawn Cobb-Neate said: “This has been brilliant for our students, some of who saw him on Master Chef. Because he is into foraging they will be using the ingredients they wouldn’t normally use.”

Anyone interested in the tasting event should contact 01325 503030 or email admissionsandenquiries@darlington.ac.uk

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