The Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year competition presented by La Rousse Foods held the contest finals on Sunday November 19 in the professional kitchens of Cooks Academy Cookery School on South William Street in Dublin. This year’s winner was announced as Conor Halpenny, a young chef mentored by Ross Lewis of Chapter One.
The six finalists were requested to devise two dishes, one sweet and one savoury, inspired by this year’s contest theme ‘Back to basics – old-school cooking’, using ingredients from some of the producers they had the opportunity to meet earlier in the competition process.
The Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year candidates cooked for six guest judges – chefs Richard Corrigan, Anna Haugh, Graham Neville, Wade Murphy, Paul Kelly and Aidan McGrath – producing a savoury dish using Dundrum Dexter beef rib-eye on the bone and cheek and/or Ballymakenny Violetta potatoes and Pink Fir Apple potatoes, and a sweet dish using apples from Highbank Orchard including the varieties Blusher, Dabinet and Aston bitters, as well as an optional selection of Highbank apple-based drinks and spirits.
On Sunday at the finals, judges watched the competitors at work, tasted and tested, and made a decision as to which of the six of these young talents became overall winner of this competitive adventure. Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year finalists were expected to use their creativity and demonstrate their culinary skills, focusing on basic, simple techniques – old-school cooking that provides the fundamentals and solid foundation of any cuisine – to create two innovative, interesting and accomplished dishes over the course of 2.5 hours of focused cooking.
Halpenny won the overall competition with a savoury dish of beef, cabbage, bone marrow and colcannon and a sweet dish of set rice, fermented apple, yoghurt and malt, impressing the judges with their flair, imagination and skill in execution.
The Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year competition started in June and guided the young chefs through a culinary journey that culminated with Sunday’s final and gala dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel. The gala dinner featured courses co-created and produced by the shortlisted candidates and their mentors, and was hosted by MCs Simon Delaney and Domini Kemp, with chef Richard Corrigan, himself renowned for his love of old-school techniques, announcing this year’s Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year and calling Conor Halpenny to the stage to receive their trophy.
The Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year competition presented by La Rousse Foods is Ireland’s premier culinary competition celebrating Ireland’s best emerging culinary talent. Open to professional chefs under the age of 26, the competition has a proven track record in discovering the finest young talent with former winners including Mark Moriarty who progressed to win the World San Pellegrino Young Chef Competition in 2015.