Con Amici pasta master Joe passes on his kitchen secrets to schoolgirl chef

A top chef who has cooked for football superstars David Beckham and Wayne Rooney is helping a school student prepare for a major culinary competition.

Pin Chou, a 17-year-old sixth former at a top independent school in North Wales, is competing for the Rotary Club International’s Young Chef 2012 crown.

Pin, from Seoul, in South Korea, a boarder at Howells School, Denbigh, has been taken under the wing of chef Joe Lynch, from the highly-acclaimed Con Amici restaurant in the town.

Joe, 46, originally from Llandudno Junction, inherited his love of cooking and Iralian food from his Sicilian mother but he honed his skills at some of the North West’s most popular restaurants.

These included Est Est Est in Chester and Alderley Edge where David and Victoria Beckham used to dine and where United stars including Ronaldo, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Gary Neville rubbed shoulders with Corrie regulars Bill Roache(Ken Barlow) and Michael Le Vell (Kevin Webster).

Pin, whose journey home at the end of each term involves an 18-hour flight, came through the local heat of the Rotary Club competition with a two-course traditional Korean meal including a chicken and potato fritter.

She said: “My form tutor asked if I wanted to try and I thought I’d have a go. I cook at home and have learned to cook in the traditional Korean way.

“I don’t do cookery in school – I’m studying Business, Art, Media and IT at A-level and would like to go to university here but perhaps I could become a chef one day.

“I enjoy cooking though and it’s a good skill to have.”

Howells School Trustee Nicola Locke said: “We’re very excited that Pin has done so well and I’m sure her family back home are thrilled for her.

“Howells School is always keen for pupils to gain experience in this and other competitions and events as it all adds to the educational experience.

“It’s brilliant that Joe is helping her and she couldn’t have a better mentor as Con Amici’s many regular customers could testify.”

Joe was one of the judges in the local heat and was so impressed by Pin that he has offered to mentor her for as long as she is in the competition which continues on February 17 at Deeside College.

There the competitors from across Rotary District 1180, covering North and Mid Wales, the Wirral and Merseyside, will have two hours to prepare and cook a healthy three-course meal costing less than £15 and the top two will go on to the Regional Final in Nantwich in March.

He said: “My speciality is Italian food, that’s what I love and what I learned from my mother but the principles of cooking are the same across the world.

“It’s about having good quality ingredients and letting them speak for themselves. We try at Con Amici to use local wherever possible and the standard here in the Vale of Clwyd is very high.

“My mum and her sisters grow their own herbs and things and I get a lot of those from them as well.

“My parents had a guest house and I helped with the cooking and then my cousin started a restaurant in Chester, Dino’s in Lower Bridge Street, and I went to help him after leaving school.”

Joe rose to be head chef and area manager at top chains Est Est Est and Piccolino’s but wanted to do is own thing and he and business partner Leigh O’Brien opened Con Amici in April and it’s gone from strength to strength.

He said: “Alwyn Thomas, from the local Rotary Club asked me to be a judge and I just thought Pin showed such creativity and potential so I’m happy to help her whether she wants to cook traditional Korean cuisine or something else.

“I can show her the ropes and how to present food to the best advantage and various techniques and hopefully it will help her go further.”

Pin hasn’t decided on her menu for the next round when she has to prepare a three-course meal but she is going to stick to her native Korean dishes

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