Mystery Box Challenge

Published: 18th March 2021

Published by City College Southampton

We recently partnered with Harvest Fine Foods to supply and deliver mystery boxes worth £30 each to all of our Hospitality and Catering students. It has been inspiring that in these times that not only have companies like Harvest Fine Foods and Essential Cuisine supported our students through guest lectures and incentives but that we have been able to come together and help them.

With this in mind industry expert teachers, Simon and David thought it would be a great idea to use a mystery box to create a fun challenge for the students and to reward them for working hard and completing all the tasks set during the year to date, especially with the lockdown. Everyone agreed that it was not only a lovely reward for students but that it was another way of supporting our students and their family’s wellbeing by ensuring that they have the opportunity to eat fresh nutritional food at home at no cost to themselves while still challenging the student’s creativity.

The boxes were put together from Simon selected ingredients. Essential Cuisine also offered to add some product samples from their street chef range to each of the boxes for the students to use. These included South Indian style seasoning, Peanut-free satay style seasoning and a Vegetable stock. A brief was then created and the students were tasked with planning, preparing and cooking a 2-course meal for up to 4 people using the ingredients provided, as long as they used one of the samples from Essential Cuisine the students were free to create what they wanted.

One parent reached out to us and said that he is "so impressed with the hospitality team and the activity they have put in place today for students to complete. His son received his food box today with all the ingredients to create a meal with so much excitement and enthusiasm that he could barely contain himself and was keen to get started. To top it all this afternoon they are going to meet the chef at the Ritz who Jack watched in the TV series. I cannot express enough how impressed I am with the work the team have done with the students during the lockdown.”

Phil from Harvest Fine Foods explained that “at Harvest, supporting and inspiring up and coming chefs is also very important to us. We work closely with Simon and David at the College and our suppliers like Essential Cuisine, to inspire and equip the next generation of up and coming chefs, with the knowledge and experience they need to work in the catering and hospitality industry.

In normal times Harvest offer 'in trade educational days' where we will have a year group of catering students from the college visit us to learn more about using great produce as well as how the catering supply chain works. The students then get to participate in some 'Ready Steady Cook' style fun in our fully fitted demonstration kitchen.

Unfortunately, we are not in normal times, so we had to think outside the box and bring the products to the students. So, the mystery box was created.

As a company, we want to encourage students to enjoy food and cooking, while gaining as much experience as they can before they go out to the industry, this was just another opportunity to challenge the students.”

Gary from Essential Cuisine added that “Essential Cuisine are proud to have supported Southampton City College students during the Coronavirus pandemic. Since our inception in 1995, we have stayed true to our roots - our approach is all about supporting chefs, and mentoring students looking for a career in this rewarding industry. Due to the latest restrictions, we have adapted our support techniques, providing online sessions, samples for students at home and digital resources to ensure the chefs of tomorrow can carry on learning.”

Congratulations to our winners:

First year (Level 1 Culinary skills) joint 1st place winners: Mackenzie Mason and Jack Fleeman

Second year (Level 2 Culinary skills) 1st place winner: Chloe Smith

Students were awarded books on various culinary subjects as well as awarded with a certificate. 



From right to left: Winners Mackenzie Mason, Jack Fleeman and Chloe Smith