FROM stunning starters to delectable desserts ­— the Isle of Wight College certainly re-educated this layman on the lofty heights of hospitality.

On Thursday, September 26, three professional chefs, together with their individual teams of promising young college students, competed in the Gurt Cook Off ­— a competitive cooking competition supported by The Seaview Hotel.

Jack Sallabanks and James Butchers, both tutors at the college, helmed teams, as did the talented Jamin Woodmore of The Little Gloster.

Each group prepared a set of three dishes, made up from a hamper of locally sourced ingredients.

The experience served as a reminder of not only the budding young talent, but also of the remarkable benchmark a college can set, wherein every dish was every bit as easy on the eye as it was blissful on the palette.

Each dish ­— meticulously arranged, and so varied in its flavours and composition ­— was a welcome lesson in presentation and style.

The first of the starters, comprised of smoked garlic and courgette stuffed mackerel, sat atop a bed of Isle of Wight tomatoes and fennel salad, set the standard early on.

Even the roasted butternut squash and sweet potato soup ­— a simple, unimpressive dish at face value ­— was far from shallow.

It was sweet, smooth, and carried a subtle tincture of sour.

The third starter ­— roasted mackerel fillet, tomato salsa and smoked garlic dressing ­— was a lesson in layering, because it was a profusion of flavour as complex as a David Lynch film.

Charming, skilfully constructed starters made way for an equally impressive selection of main courses, ranging from succulent roasted lamb to pan-seared pork tenderloin.

The lamb was immense ­— tender, pink and glistening ­— and its five-a-day throne was a perfectly balanced cluster of cavalo nero, caramelised shallots and romanesco, partnered with smooth, sweet potato mash.

The pork was similarly impressive ­— crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside ­— complemented by a side of rosti potatoes, cavalo nero, butternut, wild mushroom and smoked garlic cream sauce.

The third ­— sea bream fillet, confit new potatoes, seasoned greens and Gloucester sauce ­— was a masterclass that lingered on the palette.

The desserts were left to the students alone to conjure up, and they did so with aplomb.

The first dish, a lemon meringue tart with strawberry coulis, raspberry and mint, bordered on art ­— and I don't mean a Jackson Pollock painting.

The second was a delightful dish of apple tarte tatin in puff pastry with creme anglaise ­— a beautiful mess.

The third, and last dish of the evening, was apple tarte tatin, caramel sauce with homemade ice cream, criminally sweet and wickedly alluring.

Jack Sallabanks and his team emerged victorious, winning a bottle of Bollinger, donated by the Seaview Hotel, and a chef profile in an Island magazine.

The students won a day in the kitchen at The Seaview Hotel, learning from its talented brigade of chefs, followed by dinner in the 2AA rosette and Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant.

Judges were Matt Chatfield and Cat James of Matt and Cat fame, Janet Stevens of the IW College and IW County Press reporter Liam Chorley.

Farmer Jacks, Briddlesford Lodge Farm, Living Larder, Garlic Farm, WA Foods, Wholesale Catering Butchers, Medina Food services, Yates Brewery and The Seaview Hotel, all donated ingredients for the event.