Euro-Toques Young Chef Competition Comes of Age!

Euro-Toques Young Chef of the YearHousehold names including Darina Allen, Neven Maguire (MacNean House & Restaurant), Ross Lewis (Chapter One), Derry Clarke (l'Ecrivain) and Guillaume LeBrun (Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud) feature among the 180 or so member chefs of Euro-Toques Ireland.

Yet it is their annual Young Chef competition that has done most to give the prestigious international chefs and cooks association a high profile in this country - where the group is as well known for promoting talent among young chefs, as for their dedication to safeguarding our food heritage and supporting the best local produce (‘The building blocks of good cooking’ as Paul Bocuse put it).

And this year they celebrate the 21st Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year, firstly with the photocall ‘21 chefs for 21 years’ - featuring former and current judges of the competition and past winners - and then the announcement of this year’s competition, which opens for entries on September 19th.

The Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year is open to professional chefs and cooks under 25 years of age, and is the only professional culinary competition in the country based around local and artisan food ingredients. Through mentoring and training based prizes, the competition aims to contribute to the professional development of promising young industry professionals.

Gearoid Lynch - Euro-ToquesGearoid Lynch, Chef/Proprietor of the Olde Post Inn in Co. Cavan, is current head of Euro-Toques Ireland and a past 'Young Chef' winner.

“Being involved in the competition was fantastic for my career”, says Lynch, “not only from the point of view of getting my name out there... It gave me the chance to interact with, and cook for, some of the top people in the industry and to learn from them. The competition and prizes put a big emphasis on education and development, so reaching the final in the competition means a chance to really progress and hone your skills. It is an amazing opportunity for any ambitious and hard-working young chef”.

Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year AwardInitial entries to the competition are in the form of a recipe task on a specific theme. Entries must be accompanied by a nomination from a senior industry mentor. From these written entries, candidates are shortlisted for interviews hosted by Failte Ireland. Finally the top 5 candidates are selected to go through to the final.

Over approximately 4 weeks they will be assisted by their industry mentor in preparing for the Culinary Skills Test final at the end of November, as well as the Gala Presentation lunch – a five course menu prepared by the 5 finalists themselves for industry and media guests, where the overall winner will be announced. The theme of locally sourced and regionally identifiable food will be emphasised throughout.

The specific theme for the Entry Recipe will be announced when the competition opens on September 19th, but the fact that BIM (Irish Sea Fisheries Board) are one of the partners in this year’s competition may give some hint of the general theme.

The role of the industry mentor is vital to this competition and industry chefs are asked to put forward promising young chefs in their kitchens, or who have worked for them in the past. These industry mentors must commit to assisting their candidate in training for the competition, should they reach the final.

Euro-ToquesThe staffing situation in the industry is now at crisis point”, says Euro-Toques Secretary-General Ruth Hegarty, “Even the top kitchens in the country can’t get chefs. We hope that this competition can show potential chefs and cooks the level that can be reached if you are motivated and passionate about cooking. Yes, it is a tough competition, but it is also a tough industry. People need to be realistic. You will work hard, but if you love it, it is immensely satisfying. Traditionally, chefs trained through apprenticeship and learned from industry masters. It is vital that this role continues in tandem with formal education. That is why we encourage and emphasise mentoring in the competition”.

The five finalists in the 2011 competition will win an educational Culinary Tour, sponsored by Failte Ireland, taking in some of Ireland’s top artisan food producers and the kitchens of top chefs. The overall winner will go on a prestigious overseas ‘stage’ in a top restaurant. There are also cash prizes for all five finalist and a prize for the mentor of the winning chef.

Entry forms and full details will be available on the Euro-toques website from Monday 19th of September. If you are interested in entering or nominating a candidate, you can email your details now to to have an entry form sent to you.

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