Catering student cooks up a storm as he prepares to head to Venice to take part in the finals of a prestigious culinary competition

Darlington College student Batu Sunbul is one of 25 contestants to reach the last stage of the CombiGuru contest, hosted by Italian oven manufacturer Unox.

And as his tutor, Dawn Cobb-Neate is unable to accompany him to Venice, because it clashes with another event, he can take his mother Elaine, fulfilling both their dreams to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site.

They are due to fly out to Italy on May 4 where they will be guests of the company. The following day Batu will have just three hours to prepare, cook and serve a two course meal of main and dessert dishes from a box of mystery ingredients.

At stake is a top prize of a brand new industrial oven for Darlington College and chef’s utensils for himself. He and his mother will also enjoy a VIP tour of Venice.

“I can’t wait,” said Harrogate-born Batu, a Level 2 food and beverage student who lives in Northallerton and also works at the town’s Fox and Hounds pub.

Darlington College Catering student Batu Sunbul in catering kitchen. “I’m really looking forward to it. It has always been my dream to visit Venice and going there feels like a prize in itself. My mum has also always wanted to go and when I told her she could come with me she was quite emotional.”

Twenty two Darlington College Level 2-5 students took part in the qualifying challenge in which they had to answer a host of questions about cooking and the industry.

Batu worked his way through 54 levels of the online questionnaire and took the honours with an impressive score of 1,803 points, just 12 clear of his nearest rival Angus Duncan.

“I was surprised to win, particularly beating Angus, and amazed that I didn’t have to compete in the cooking stage in this country before heading out to Venice,” said the 19-year-old, who has also studied Level 2 culinary skills and Level 3 professional cookery at Darlington College.

He will be judged by Unox chefs on his preparation, cooking techniques, plating of the dishes, and taste of the food.

Batu, whose father is Turkish, has been cooking since he gave up playing football five years ago. “I have always cooked around the house and watched cookery programmes on TV,” he said. “I’d love one day to go to Turkey to study its cuisine and then open my own Turkish-inspired restaurant in Harrogate.”

Dawn said: “This is a phenomenal opportunity for Batu and I am sure he will do his very best. If he wins the oven we will put a plaque of his name on it to inspire future generations of young chefs.

“He is so passionate about cooking. Whenever we have big events he is the first to volunteer to help. Mystery boxes are very challenging and need skill and imagination. But he has been practicing particularly pasta and risotto dishes, and I’m sure he will be able to come up with something great.”

For more information on opportunities at Darlington College visit

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