Norwich trainee Chefs make their Debut with Daringly deceptive dishes

PUBLISHED: 06:30 16 November 2011

City College trainee chefs Sam Masters and Robert Ducker prepare for their Children in Need fundraising dinner at the Debut Restaurant. Photo by Simon Finlay

City College trainee chefs Sam Masters and Robert Ducker prepare for their Children in Need fundraising dinner at the Debut Restaurant. Photo by Simon Finlay

Archant © 2011 01603 772434

Two trainee chefs delivered an inventive menu in aid of Children in Need at City College Norwich’s Debut Restaurant yesterday evening, giving diners dishes which were not quite what they first seemed.

Robert Ducker, 18, and Sam Masters, 21, served up what appeared to be a children’s menu which was in fact fine dining which drew inspiration from French and Italian cuisine.

As reported, the pair are working towards advanced hospitality diplomas at City College Norwich and came up with the idea when it came for their turn to run an evening’s dining for paying customers. They also shrewdly timed it just right to act as a Children in Need fundraiser.

Treats such as lollypop, which was in fact salmon mousse rolled in smoked salmon, and toasted brioche topped with goat’s cheese, caramelised onions, toasted pine nuts and rocket calling itself deep pan pizza left diners unsure whether mum had gone to Iceland or a high end restaurant.

But once they’d finished the final course, mini burgers which were actually macaroons filled with a chocolate frosting, the customers were in no doubt about what they had tasted.

Natalie Gleave, 31, from Horsford, is front office manager at the Holiday Inn at Norwich Airport. She said: “The food has been first class, the menu is brilliantly inventive.

“It brings you back to your childhood but is served at a very high standard, and I think it shocks you in a nice way.”

The guests, totalling 50 and comprising lecturers, associates of the college and family and friends paid £21 for the meal, with £500 going towards Children in Need.

Steve Thorpe, head of the hospitality programme, said: “It’s about learning through doing, the students actually get to plan an event.

“It is very enterprising, getting students to be risk takers so young is very unique but it is what employers look for.”

The pair were guided and assessed by Nigel Crane, chef and trainer and assessor in the hospitality programme, who was whipping them into shape. The idea for the menu came from a practical joke aimed at Mr Crane.

Mr Masters, from Norwich, explained the origins of the menu. He said: “We came up with the idea when we were messing around with Nigel, we gave him a child’s menu as a joke, and he said we should do it.

“Tonight is going really well, everyone seems really happy with the food.”

Mr Ducker, from Dereham, said: “We thought it would be funny to put bangers and mash on a menu and hand it to Nigel, we thought he would laugh, but instead he said it was possible, and could be good.

“You see bangers and mash and you think you know what to expect, but we are using venison sausages, it is all part of the entertainment.”

*Are you doing something for Children in Need? Call reporter Joe Wilkes on 01603 772 474 or email

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