Chefs from the University of Birmingham have won a bronze medal at The University Caterers’ Organisation (TUCO) annual Chefs’ Challenge, giving them a consistent top three finish for three consecutive years at this national competition.

Chefs Mark Houghton, Chrissy Smith and Marie Naylor took part in a pressurised two-hour “cook-off”, competing against chefs from 13 universities across the UK at the event in Blackpool.

The team was required to produce a four-course meal for four people, with certain aspects of the menu that were pre-determined.

For first course, the Birmingham chefs demonstrated their versatility by creating a Double Baked Soufflé of Turbot with a Tarragon Beurre Blanc and Wild Mushrooms. All the teams had ‘claws’ for concern when faced with producing a pre-selected dish of Classical Lobster Newburg for second course. With duck on the menu for third course, the Birmingham team chose Three Little Classics of Gressingham Duck, A la Orange, Cerise, Petit Pois served with a Vanilla and Lime mashed Potato. The dessert was a Rich Dark Chocolate Tart with their choice of Parsnip Ice Cream to complement it.

Mark Houghton, the University’s Executive Chef, said: “Being top three consistently for three years is a real achievement in this tough competition, and I’m proud to have led my team to the medals each year. Birmingham will compete again next year, but I’ll be hanging up my chef’s hat and coaching a new team, developing the skills of the many potential medal winners I have within my staff.”

This win rounds off a great month of awards for the Hospitality and Accommodation Services Team. The week prior to the TUCO Chefs’ Challenge, the team scooped three prizes at the MARCHE Awards, the annual awards of the Midland Association of Restaurants, Caterers, Hotels and Entertainment. Prizes were taken home in the Chef of the Year, Drinks Service Assistant of the Year and Housekeeper of the Year categories.


Notes to Editors:

The University of Birmingham’s Hospitality and Accommodation Services team is responsible for the provision of student residential accommodation, all campus catering services, the provision of conference facilities, the commercial uses of residential accommodation and the University day nurseries. They serve a 35,000 strong campus community.

Further information:

Rachel Robson – Head of News Team, University of Birmingham

Tel: 0121 414 6681 / email: