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College student's recipe for success in inaugural cooking challenge

Keiran Raphy

Following months of hard work and an intensive three-day final challenge in Padova, Italy, 25-year-old Harlow College final year student, Kieran Raphy, along with 18-year-old Catherine Ripley, in her second year at Westminster Kingsway College, came out on top in the first Unox UK Combi-Guru challenge. 

Designed to educate, entertain, and inspire, Unox’s global Combi-Guru digital platform delivers technical insight, culinary knowledge and recipe creativity through a simple app-based interface. The 2023 challenge required participating students to complete a range of daily tasks and timed Q&A sessions over a period of several weeks. Kieran scored more than 3,000 points in the first stage of the challenge to secure his place at the finals in Padova, the location of the Unox global head office. 

Over three days, both Kieran and Catherine - accompanied by college tutors – were able to immerse themselves in the culinary heritage of Italy – enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the historic Vento region, by wandering the food markets, finding little known local lunch spots and working with a range of inspirational chefs at the final of the prestigious cooking competition. Based on a two-course service created in just three hours, Keiran’s winning menu of lamb, whipped feta, roasted vegetables and chimichurri, wowed the judges, as did his dessert of a cinnamon custard tart complete with dark chocolate crémeux, featuring Keiran’s own impressive sugar work.

Of the whole experience, Kieran commented:

“It was a thrill to take part in the final and to win was more than I could ever have expected! The whole Unox team have been extremely generous and I’ve really enjoyed taking part in the Combi-Guru challenge. 

“I was studying for my exams whilst also preparing for the finals, and the app helped me learn a bit more alongside my course work, so it was really useful. Part of our trip included a visit to lunch at Venissa – a Michelin-starred restaurant in Venice which was amazing. The whole experience was incredible and I learnt an enormous amount from all the chefs at the competition. I was really focused on just doing my best, which worked out really well. I was delighted to win.”

Alongside the trip and each students’ personal prize of a set of top-quality knives, both winning colleges will receive a brand-new combi-oven courtesy of Unox.

Harlow College Catering tutor Andy Wright said:

“We’re so pleased that Kieran won the competition – it’s a credit to his hard work as well as the efforts that we all make behind the scenes to mentor, encourage and inspire all of our students. We think Kieran has the potential to go a long way in this industry and we wish him well. The Combi-Guru challenge has been a great project, and Keiran’s exposure to the finals, the culture and the expertise he saw in Italy is a real money can’t buy opportunity.”

Also partnering with Unox, as part of the Combi-Guru challenge was industry not-for-profit organisation, The Burnt Chef Project. Representatives of the mental health movement joined the finalists in Italy and helped highlight all the ways that young people entering the industry can work hard, enjoy their progression and all whilst staying fit and well. 

Reflecting on the campaign overall, Scott Duncan, Managing Director, Unox UK commented:

“It’s been a genuine privilege to be involved with so many aspiring young chefs as part of the Combi-Guru challenge this year. To see the culinary stars of the future, as well as working closely with colleges across the UK makes me feel really upbeat about the future of the sector. We’re delighted to support the winning college with its new oven and hope that it will help the next generation of students to push the boundaries further still.”

The Unox Combi-Guru challenge will return in 2024 but the final word must go to Kieran:

“I’ve really enjoyed the experience – and not just because we won! Meeting people from across the industry and getting advice from the Unox professionals gave me the chance to build my skills and confidence, as well as experience all that Italy and its wonderful culinary culture had to offer. All I would say to next year’s students is it’s a great opportunity, why wouldn’t you do it?”

For more information about the Unox Combi-Guru challenge or the wider Unox equipment portfolio, please visit