The Southern Co-operative - Create and Cook Competition

South East Collaborative Action Award 2014 - Highly Commended

The Southern Co-operative's Create and Cook Competition nurtures young talents, promotes local food and healthy eating and provides accessible industry role models, leading to work experience and job opportunities.

Social impacts

  • Developed links between schools and businesses and created work experience and rural job opportunities. Every winner was offered a day’s chef work experience.
  • Demonstrated a commitment to local food education with more than 50 schools registered across three counties in 2014.
  • Supported school cookery workshops, cultivating skills and encouraging learning.

Business impacts

  • Raised the profile of The Southern Co-operatives commitment to their Local Flavours range which now has 1,200 product lines.
  • Supported co-operative principles of working together with like-minded organisations for mutual benefit to build better, stronger communities where The Southern Co-operative trades.
  • On the basis of known press cuttings, the Create and Cook Competition generated £13,500 of publicity (equivalent value of advertising).

The Southern Co-operative logo

This competition provides an excellent platform for educating the next generation about the importance of these issues. The standard of entries increases each year and I never fail to be inspired by the creativity of the dishes produced and the talent of the finalists. To be a winner of this competition is a significant credit to a young person’s ability and their future employability.

- Phil Ponsonby,
 Chief Operating Officer (Food Retail), the Southern Co-operative
Sponsored by The Southern Co-operative and run by Fit2Cook, the Create and Cook Cmpetition challenges 12-14 year old cooks to create their own menus inspired by their county’s local produce.

More than just a competition, this programme educates young teenagers about local food, challenging them to think not only about why it is important to buy local but also why the healthy eating should be a priority. It also develops links between schools and business creating work experience and local job opportunities, with every winner offered a day's work experience as a chef. Finally, it supports and profiles local businesses by promoting local food producers and as a result, provenance, seasonality and sustainability to teenagers and a wider audience.

I learnt that hard work and dedication can be very rewarding.

- Chris McLennan,
2013 Create and Cook Competition Champion
The collaboration is strengthened by a range of business benefits. Through it, the Southern Co-operative demonstrates and promotes its commitment to local food and drink, creating further opportunities to promote and support local farmers and producers.  It also helps build links with local food organisations across the counties it trades in, supports the Southern Co-operative's Sustainability plan and raises the profile of their Local Flavours range.

Management of this programme between two different companies proved an advantage ratehr than a problem.. Fit2Cook founder drives the campaign while The Southern Co-operative sponsors it. Each year both organisations review the competition to improve it year-on-year, agree on the budget and monitor its success.

“It’s a great experience being in a cookery competition and when you are young it often gives you the confidence boost you need to pursue cooking as a career. [Competitions] are great fun but they can also lead to work opportunities”, Steven Edwards, BBC TV Masterchef: The Professionals winner 2013, regional final judge 2014.