First college Wokstar competition winner revealed at Lu Ban Liverpool

The first student Lu Ban Wokstar has been crowned at Liverpool’s award-winning Lu Ban restaurant.

Jean-Claudine Villanueva was named the winner securing the Middlesbrough College student a £3,000 prize at the final at the Lu Ban Restaurant.

The Wokstar contest, organised by the Sino-British Lu Ban Workshop, featured more than 40 students taking part in heats from six colleges across England and Wales.

The team at Lu Ban restaurant, including executive chef director Dave Critchley and Mike Mounfield, have been instrumental in the new contest which has showcased the skills and awareness of Chinese cuisine – which the restaurant has championed since 2019.

All of the students who took part in the heats were invited to Liverpool and the final, which was held at Lu Ban Restaurant on June 17.

Each heat winner got the opportunity to create a dish with Dave Critchley, before being quizzed by a panel of judges from the city with specialist knowledge in the catering trade or Chinese culture, that would decide the winning Wokstar.

The judging panel was Paul Kallee-Grover MBE, chair of the Liverpool China Partnership, Rina Sowler, Associate Member of Liverpool China Partnership, Leigh Harmes, Berkmann Wine Cellars, Jason Benn, global leader in skills development at City & Guilds and Wendy Johnston, Senior Lecturer in Food Studies at Liverpool John Moores University.

Jean-Claudine, aged 29, took the title with Trafford College’s Lauren Firth, aged 19, highly commended, which secured a £1,500 prize.

Chief of judges Mike Jennings of the Hospitality Hut, who oversaw the judging of each heat and the final, acknowledged the standards of the students during the competition.

“The level of cooking from the students was extremely high with a very detailed approach. All of the students taking part can be proud of what they achieved.

“The competition has not only opened our eyes to traditional Chinese cookery but developed the importance of understanding the reasoning behind the food stories.”

Mounfield, who devised the competition, explained the background of the competition and the support provided.

He said: “We were aware that many culinary competitions aren’t an option for colleges to participate in, so following advice from the Professional Association for Catering Education (PACE) and consultation with senior food lecturers, we developed the Wokstar competition to overcome the challenges and complications.

“One of these included the Wokstar supporters funding all of the ingredients and equipment for the students to compete in the competition, as that is a huge barrier.”

Mounfield added the competition will be expanded in 2023 to include more colleges across the UK.

For more information on the competition and for details of all the heats go to

Image: Dave Critchley and Jean-Claudine Villanueva celebrate

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