There are few things these days that will make me leave my bed at 4am – a fire or an armed robbery are the two that spring to mind immediately. It came to pass last week that this was something I had to do; no actually it was something I wanted to do.
What lay ahead was the Young National Chef of the Year (YNCOTY) final in London & along with the National Chef of the Year final, it’s the culmination of months and months of hard work, practice, failure and success by the chefs.
For me too, it was the culmination of many years of the same combination of hard work, practice, failure and success. Fifteen years ago I set out to create a competition that connected the Chefs of the North West with the artisan producers of the Region as well as create a channel that allowed them progress and shine at national level. Today four young chefs from the North West, all previous winners were competing in the final that’s 40% of the finalists and that’s why the bloody alarm was going off in the middle of the night!
Now let’s not be all PC here, of course we wished all 10 young chefs well in the final, it’s a huge challenge and great testament to their skill and determination…but secretly we of course were hoping for our first ever winner from these here parts. So who were these young culinary warriors wielding the palette knife, pan and plancheur on behalf of themselves, their families and employers?
Danny Young Northcote Manor Lancashire - our 2014 champion, super organised, worth two good men, gets through a huge amount of work delivering immaculate food. Drawing comments from the judges such as ‘you’d be happy with a couple like him in your kitchen’
Arthur Bridgeman Quinn The Punch Bowl Cumbria – at the tender age of 21 our 2015 winner is already a veteran of 3 National finals and an award winner via The Craft Guild of Chefs. He is described by his boss as ‘blotting paper absorbing anything and everything to do with food.
Daniela Tucci The Art School Liverpool – In 2016 Daniela became the first female winner, also bucking the trend by being the first dedicated pastry chef to take the title. We describe Daniela as always cooking with a smile on her face and she produces beautiful looking and tasting food.
Thomas Reeves L’Enclume Cumbria – Our current champion seems to arrive a day early to set up, everything…everything is labelled, in order and timed to the second. You wouldn’t know he was there until his plates smack you in the face with flavour, clever cookery and inviting presentation.
Arriving in London far too early, I went in search of a full English in a traditional formica clad cockney caf in the hope that it also offered builders tea in a chipped mug…everything has its place & value. I didn’t quite find it but the breakfast (complete with chips???) was served with haste, humour & good Hospitality skills, something often lacking these days. I don’t care if you are bringing me a mug of tea or a carefully engineered plate, a smile costs nowt and a kind word is priceless.