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The Ready Steady Cook Challenge in Ulster University was initially developed to support our important role in preparing pupils for the transition from school to university.

University readiness is not only about having the specific subject knowledge but students also benefit from having extra-curricular skills as many students will be living away from home for the first time.

As a pilot project, undergraduate students from Nutrition, Food and Dietetics degrees at Ulster University worked in partnership with staff to deliver the initiative to the two selected schools. Year 13 pupils from North Coast Integrated College and Loreto College were invited to participate in the Ready, Steady, Cook Challenge, which ran across five consecutive weeks, with a finale event on the Coleraine campus.

The Ready, Steady, Cook Challenge was based on the TV show, with the aim of the competition to plan and prepare a healthy dish in 30 minutes using all the ingredients provided.  Each school was given ingredients to allow for 30 participants to participant during the four weeks of learning and competition within their school.

For the competition, small teams of school pupils, alongside Ulster students, were given a carrier bag of the same ingredients to use, the majority of which were fresh. Teams could decide how to prepare the food but all ingredients had to be included in the meal. Each team was given ten minutes from receiving the ingredients to discuss and plan their meal, with 30 minutes to cook and present the meal.

For the finale week each school entered two winning teams (two or three pupils) to compete in the final held at our Coleraine Campus.  Meals were judged by local industry professionals, Paula McIntyre, chef and broadcaster, and Ulster University staff, Professor Aine McKillop, Associate Dean (Education) and Mairead Davidson, Lecturer in Education (Home Economics).

The competition was judged on the following criteria: based on taste, texture and flavour, appearance/presentation of the dish, hygiene, preparation of dish, team work, and rationale for choice of healthy dish.

Darryl McCullagh (FHEA), Educational Outreach Officer, said:

“The Ready, Steady Cook Challenge is one of a number of projects that Ulster University is working with primary and post primary schools across Northern Ireland to engage and inspire the next generation.

“We design and deliver high quality, academic-led, subject specific schools’ outreach programmes, provided by the Schools team, Faculties and Departments, across all campuses, and this pilot project gave year 13 pupils from two post-primary schools in Coleraine the opportunity to work with colleagues from the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences and students from the School of Biomedical Sciences to understand the importance of food and nutrition for health.”