James Devine crowned National Chef of the Year 2017
James Devine, sous chef at EIPIC in Belfast, has taken the title of National Chef of the Year 2017.
Devine served tortellini, roast chicken, butternut squash and sage veloute; Tees Valley rib of beef, braised puy lentils and watercress; and soft-centred chocolate and coffee tart with passion fruit curd.
Winners take home not only the title but a medal, a one-year membership to the Craft Guild of Chefs, media training provided by Knorr, which will also work with the winner to create a recipe book, £1,200 in Lockhart vouchers, a trip to Switzerland from Nespresso where they will take part in a training programme, a framing plate and £500 worth of vouchers from Churchill and the chance to appear as guest chef in Le Cordon Bleu.
Devine said: "It's amazing; I really never expected to win - or even to come this far. It's a real honour and a big shock - come on Northern Ireland!"
The judging panel included Clare Smyth, Philip Howard, Andrew Fairlie, Lee Westcott, Daniel Galmiche, Andrew Pern, Dan Doherty, Gary Jones, Benoit Blin, Daniel Clifford, Sat Bains, Simon Hulstone, Paul Ainsworth, Brett Graham, Jonny Lake, Stephen Terry, Matt Christmas, Claude Bosi, Graham Hornigold, Julie Sharp and Jonas Dahlbom.
Smyth said: "One of the most amazing things about this competition is that it's open to anyone in the sector. Every year we get surprised by people we have never seen before; the competition is a great opportunity to show what they can do.
"It's a really brave thing to come out of the bubble of your own kitchen to do something like this - it's a really tough competition but it's great to see what you come up with. Things go wrong but that's life. But everyone impressed us."
Jones, head chef at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, said: "I have been fortunate to see the growth and development of many good young chefs into great chefs and the standard of this competition is unprecedented in the UK. Everyone who enters wins in terms of their own development. To pull off the win, though, is not luck; it's hard work, discipline, dedication and skill. Our industry benefits from the raised standards and knowledge across the board. Britain's chefs are becoming stronger as a result, raising the bar in every region of the UK."
Ten finalists competed at the Restaurant Show at Olympia London during a live cook-off.
Other finalists included: Danny Parker, head chef, House of Tides, Newcastle; Martin Carabott, senior sous chef, the Royal Automobile Club, London; Liam McKenna, head chef, Trump International; Paul Foster, chef-patron, Salt; Stephanie Coupland, chef de partie, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London; Luciano Lucioli, head chef, Lusso (CH&Co Group); and Kamil Wierzbowski, sous chef, Petrus, London.
Special mention went to Smith for keeping a tidy and organised workspace. Thomason was awarded the best starter while Devine won best main course. Coupland won the title of best dessert.
The winner of the Churchill best presentation award was Young with his dessert of Cacao Barry chocolate, crème fraiche, orange and caramel.
Last year's National Chef of the Year was Larry Jayasekara.
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