Gallery: Masterchef Chris opens learning centre

JOB hunters, return-to-work mums and would-be students are today all set to benefit from a new learning centre in Ipswich.

JOB hunters, return-to-work mums and would-be students are today all set to benefit from a new learning centre in Ipswich.

Dozens gathered at Murrayside Youth and Community Centre, in Nacton Road, for the launch of the new Learning and Enterprise Access Point (Leap) centre.

To mark the opening, Masterchef runner-up Chris Gates challenged Leap project manager Miles Cole to a cook off in the centre's state-of-the-art kitchen, part of a �65,000 transformation of the building.

Chris whipped up a dish of scallops with warm salsa and streaky bacon while Miles opted for a unique dish he christened “prawn surprise”.

The 25-year-old from Halesworth, who impressed the judges enough to reach the final of this year's BBC competition, said: “Everything here is fantastic.

“It's a pleasure to cook with such a great set up.

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“The centre will give people a head start by allowing them the opportunity to see how a kitchen operates and hopefully giving them some inspiration.

“The biggest problem with getting people to eat healthily is a lack of understanding about where products come from and how to cook with them. Here they have a chance to learn by cooking face-to-face with a tutor.”

As well as Chris' impromptu cookery lesson, visitors to yesterday's open day were invited to take part in drop-in sessions including lessons in parenting, Indian head massage and IT.

Rosalind Turner, director for children and young people at Suffolk Council, cut the ribbon to officially open the centre.

It is one of a series of facilities opening across Suffolk in partnership with Suffolk Learning and Skills Council, the East of England Development Agency, West Suffolk College and University Campus Suffolk (UCS), as well as other providers.

“This is a really wonderful facility which is part of a countywide brand,” she said.

“The building is already part of the community and is well used but it now has an extra dimension.

“It gives absolutely anybody the chance to develop skills and get jobs for the future.

“They may not have previously felt comfortable walking through the doors of Suffolk College or UCS. Here they can embark on anything from a basic literacy course to a master's degree.”

For more details on community learning and skills development courses on offer at Murrayside and across Suffolk, call 0845 6037197.

Will you be taking advantage of the centre's facilities? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

I'VE always fancied myself a dab hand in the kitchen but watching Chris Gates effortlessly prepare a delicious meal in just ten minutes had made me reassess my culinary skills.

At just 25, Chris fought his way to the final of the BBC's Masterchef competition only to be pipped at the post by 43-year-old Mat Follas.

Chris has already appeared on TV's This Morning and hopes to secure a more permanent deal demonstrating his cooking skills on our screens.

He admits to having been useless in the kitchen during his high school years but developed a knack for cooking while travelling in his early 20s.

His dish of scallops with warm salsa and streaky bacon didn't last long yesterday as hungry visitors to Murrayside Youth and Community Centre clamoured to sample his culinary capability.

He hasn't let the limelight go to his head though, holding on to his old position at JobCentre Plus, in Lowestoft, after weighing up several offers from restaurants in the area.