A Lancashire chef who prides himself on getting to know his suppliers personally and is a fierce fan of foraging has won North West Young Chef 2012, sponsored by Essential Cuisine.
Lewis Gallagher from Grill on the Hill at Stanley House, Mellor, wowed judges at yesterday's final with three stunning dishes, made with a wealth of produce sourced from across the region.
The 21 year-old, who also made the final last year, said: "I feel on top of the world. I was waking up every morning thinking about the dishes I was going to cook, but all those weeks of worrying have paid off. There is, however, always room for improvement and I have taken on board the judges' feedback to prepare for The National Young Chef of the Year later this year."
Lewis, who beat finalists Laura Daniels from Cheshire, Scott Fairweather from Cumbria, Amelia Vella from Greater Manchester and Owen West from Merseyside at yesterday's cook-off at Manchester College, Didsbury, began his winning feast with a ravioli of Yellison's goats cheese with Cumbrian air-dried ham cannelloni and Ormskirk onions, the tried and tested starter he plumped for at the county heat.
For his main, Lewis cooked ‘Journeyed' port of Lancaster eel (Smoked) with Lancashire Waldorf salad and foie gras, followed up with a dessert of mille Feuille of chef's foraged wild strawberries with Ann Forshaw's lemon yoghurt mousse.
This year's final cook-off was judged by British Master Chef Brian Mellor, Aiden Byrne, who was the youngest chef to win a Michelin star, David McLaughlin, head chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant at Lake District Hotel Holbeck Ghyll, Stephen Doherty, chairman of judges for the Gordon Ramsay Scholarship, and acclaimed chef and hospitality consultant Max Gnoyke.
Brian Mellor said: "Over the 10 years of this competition, I have seen the quality of the competitors grow and grow. As judges, we're not there to trip anyone up, we're there to help these young chefs develop their skills and confidence. We're here to help them on the journey, going from being good chefs to being great chefs."
North West Young Chef, which is celebrating its 10 year anniversary, with all five original finalists still working in the industry, was borne from Brian's desire to recognise up and coming chefs (aged 23 or under) in the region, with emphasis on local provenance.
As winner of this year's competition, Lewis, who intends to spend the next five years ‘learning and progressing', automatically qualifies for The National Young Chef of the Year later this year, and receives a week stage at a top European restaurant and a set of professional chef's knives.
He narrowly beat runner-up Laura Daniels from The Grosvenor, Chester, as the finalist representing Cheshire.