2016 was a good year for Irish football, with both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland enjoying success at Euro 2016 in France. Last summer, before Northern Ireland set off on this adventure, South West Colleges catering students were amongst those who prepared food for the squad at their training camp. This year, as the team's success has continued, so too has their relationship with SWC, and last month a group of Level 3 catering students from Dungannon travelled to the Carton house, Co. Kildare, to prepare a lunch and dinner for the Northern Ireland football team, who were holding their training camp at the hotel ahead of a crucial World Cup Qualifier in Belfast.
Grainne Mulholland, Catering Curriculum Manager explained, ‘we left home early this morning to come down to prepare and cook lunch and an evening meal for the Northern Ireland football team. The whole department, two chefs and two front of house staff, alongside eleven of our third year students.'
This event provided the students with a variety of new experiences, not least the challenge of cooking in a new kitchen, for a new set of customers who happen to be elite athletes. In a busy day of work the kitchen was often as frantic as the last five minute of a cup tie, but for those involved, it was a thoroughly enjoyable occasion. Codie Rainey, studying a Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Professional Cookery, said the students felt the day was a success.
‘We thought it went really well. We’re cooking in an unfamiliar environment, a kitchen that we don’t know, but everyone was really organised, and I think we did really well to get everything out and for it to be of such good quality. Considering that we’re here in an industry kitchen it’s a great sign that we could all pull together and work as a team.'
Fellow student, Louis Del-Guidici, agreed, saying, ‘It can be pressurised at times, but it’s a really good reward for everyone. There’s nothing like cooking for a big number of people and everything going right, it’s really rewarding.’
The hard work certainly paid off on this occasion, with a happy squad of players as proof. Northern Ireland Goalkeeping coach, and former international player, Maik Taylor, said: ‘Lunch was very enjoyable. There was plenty of choice, it was nice to have a look around and see what there was, and it was all very tasty.’
Taylor explained the importance of this, saying that modern players, as top level athletes, know the importance of healthy eating, something the South West College students had to take into account when designing their menu.
As the second time the colleges catering students have cooked for the squad, South West College’s involvement with Northern Ireland coincides with a successful period for the team. Taylor admits that there’s a great feeling in the camp following the previous campaigns success and qualification for Euro 2016, an understandable relief after Northern Ireland had failed to qualify for a major competition for several decades. For this reason spirits in the Carton hotel were understandably high, with South West College students providing food to match the occasion.