Former New City College student chef Maria Carbone has gone on to work at the renowned Michelin-starred Frog restaurant in London – and she has also become something of a celebrity in her homeland of Venezuela!
Not only did she win the UK-wide Country Range Student Chef Challenge 2022, taking part in the intense live cook-off final, but she was also part of a team who cooked for VIP guests at a V&A museum reception and impressed Italian restaurateurs on a two-week work experience visit to Florence.
After her victory in the Country Range competition, Maria, who moved to England in 2017 without her parents, became something of a celebrity in south America – with many national newspapers in Peru, Colombia and Venezuela running the story about her achievements. Social media posts then went viral, even being shared in several USA states such as Florida and Texas! She was in demand with interviews for magazines and was a special guest on two radio station broadcasts.
Maria took it all in her stride but believes winning the challenge, along with the experiences and opportunities gained at New City College, helped her secure a place at Adam Handling’s prestigious Frog in September.
Still only 18 years old, Maria said: “Winning the Country Range Challenge was an amazing feeling. I was very proud. It meant so much to me because when I came to England without my parents, I spoke very little English.”
She said New City College had given her “freedom, great opportunities and amazing experiences” and she was very grateful. “Studying ESOL at NCC helped me a lot! I can speak English so much better now. I also loved the support I got from my teachers, and I made such good friends.”
Maria added: “It’s been an utterly amazing year with so much happening and so many positives, which has all been excellent preparation for not just any professional kitchen, but a Michelin-starred kitchen. I’ve had a real taste of the pressure chefs are under each and every day in fast-paced kitchens which made me realise I could succeed at the very top of the hospitality industry.
“For all those student chefs deliberating on whether to take their skills further and enter competitions like the Country Range Challenge, you have to go for it as the opportunities to grow, improve and find work are endless.”