Dornoch cookery students head to London to compete national culinary competition

Dornoch cookery students head to London to compete for top dish in national competition

Three professional cookery students from UHI North Highland will head to London this week to compete in the final of the national Zest Quest culinary competition.

Zest Quest is a team cooking competition designed to demonstrate the student competitor's technical expertise, creativity, knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Asian cuisine.

Ted Pennington, Finlay Macdonald and Holly Preston study SVQ Professional Cookery at UHI North Highland’s Dornoch campus and will travel with their lecturer, Simon Rodgers, to compete against five college-team finalists.

Ted, Finlay and Holly said, “We as a team are delighted with the chance to cook in the finals of Zest Quest 2023. The opportunity to showcase our menu, cookery skills and represent UHI North Highland in London is something we are thoroughly looking forward to. We will keep up the hard work in preparation for the finals in the hope of taking the win of Zest Quest home to the Highlands with us.” The winning team will win the opportunity of a lifetime to embark on a culinary study tour to an Asian destination.

Principal Debbie Murray congratulated the students and said “I am immensely proud of our students and our staff in getting to the final of Zest Quest. This opportunity highlights the added value of studying with UHI North Highland where we always strive to provide more than required.  Good luck to Ted, Finlay and Holly.”

A maximum of 2 hours is allowed to produce the four-course meal for three covers from the recipes and working methods supplied by the competitor with a focus on traditional Asian cooking. The winners will then be announced at the Zest Quest Asia 2023 Gala Dinner & Awards Night place on Friday, 17th February 2023 at Radisson Red Hotel London Heathrow.

Judges for the competition include, Steve Munkley, Cyrus Todiwala OBE DL FIH, Pervin Todiwala, Clive Roberts, Murray Chapman, Sarah Hartnett, Ching He Huang MBE and Tony Singh MBE.

UHI North Highland delivers a range of professional cookery courses from entry level to degree from their campuses in Thurso and Dornoch. The hospitality and professional cookery teams have recently joined up with hospitality businesses to launch a new introductory course ‘First Steps into Highland Hospitality’. Throughout this short course, students combine practical, work-based learning with college study and on completion of the course will be offered a job interview. More information is available: SCQF Level 5 SVQ Hospitality Services (First Steps into Highland Hospitality) (

Notes to editors:

  1. UHI North Highland is the trading name of North Highland College UHI. 
  2. UHI North Highland is a partner of UHI, a diverse tertiary partnership serving our communities and connected to their needs. We offer flexible and supported learning from access level to PhD, as well as research opportunities rooted in place and purpose. The diversity and flexibility of our partnership is our greatest strength, allowing us to deliver more.  
  3. UHI North Highland has learning centres and campuses throughout the North Highland including Thurso, Dornoch, Halkirk and Alness.
  4. UHI North Highland offers a range of senior phase, further education and higher education courses including rural studies, care, creative, golf and engineering.
  5. UHI North Highland is led by Debbie Murray, Principal and Chief Executive.  
  6. Find out more about UHI North Highland by visiting 
  7. UHI North Highland, UHI Outer Hebrides and UHI West Highland will merge in August 2023 to from UHI North, West and Hebrides, pending Scottish Government approval. By coming together, we will create a more sustainable organisation with combined capacity and resource to grow the curriculum, research, and innovation; develop existing and new partnerships to support employers address skills gaps and retain, attract, and nurture talent; and become more responsive to the social, cultural, and economic opportunities in our regions. Lydia Rohmer has been appointed Principal Designate of UHI North, West and Hebrides.