East Belfast’s Michael Thompson has impressed local and international chefs by being crowned the NI winner of Springboard’s FutureChef 2022 competition.
he Finale NI took place at Belfast Met’s Titanic Quarter campus yesterday, where the 15-year-old Campbell College student whipped up a plate of stuffed chicken breast and thigh, chicken mousseline, mash butter and chicken jus followed by an apple pie tatin with whipped cream and sugar spirals to wow the judges, chef Geoff Baird of contest sponsor Henderson Foodservice, restaurateur and chef Michael Deane and celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli.
Thompson will now move on to the competition’s grand final in London to face the rest of the regional winners from Scotland, England and Wales. Upon receiving his award, he also received an invitation to experience Michelin-starred cuisine at Michael Deane’s EIPIC with chef Alex Greene.
Kristen Nugent of Dungannon took second place with a crown of Co Tyrone roast chicken, potatoes, sprouted broccoli, roasted tomatoes and basil pesto, followed by chocolate cake, caramelized banana, vanilla cream and salted caramel sauce for dessert.
“Michael was consistently excellent throughout the competition, but truly created the best plate of food in the finals and impressed us all with his skill and consideration for the whole dish,” Baird said.
“Value and provenance are high demands of consumers, so this is a critical lesson that our students need to learn from the start, and can carry forward into their careers in hospitality, whether kitchen, in the dining room or in a management position. .
“It’s no secret that a busy kitchen can be a pressured environment. The finalists had 90 minutes to cook their main course and dessert, and they really taught us to keep a cool head and not get overwhelmed. It is an essential skill to learn.
“I have been with our young chefs at every stage of the competition and have been so impressed, it was fantastic to see them all cooking in their Henderson Foodservice chef whites today and I know Michael will provide others great finalists an excellent competition in March.”
Finalists had a budget of £10 to create a main meal, followed by dessert. They were rated on their overall presentation, creativity, taste and craftsmanship, as well as their focus on sourcing local ingredients, working towards zero waste and sticking to their budget.
Thompson and Nugent competed against three other cooks: Olivia Drain from Ballymena Academy, Ewan McCandless from Wallace High School and Faith Belshaw from Newtownhamilton High School who were all mentored by some of the best chefs to come from these shores.
David Gilmore, John Clark, Chris McGowan, James Devine and Colleen Lennon championed and mentored young chefs alongside Chef Geoff, who works with hundreds of restaurants and hospitality venues across Ireland in his role with Henderson Foodservice, the NI-based company that supplies restaurants, cafes, schools, and hospitals across the island.
Deane said: “What a lovely day in the kitchen. I have been so inspired by these young chefs who have shown talent, creativity and a very wide range of knowledge that will serve them so well for a career in hospitality in the future. Michael is a much-deserved winner of a tough competition, and we look forward to giving him real-world experience in the EIPIC kitchen very soon.
Novelli said: “It was a pleasure to meet the finalists from Northern Ireland and sample their exceptional cuisine, they have shown talent beyond their young years. Springboard’s FutureChef competition inspired them to show creativity and learn even more culinary skills that they can pursue in the career of their choice, and I was honored to judge each dish and present his award to Michael. It was a privilege to be back at Belfast to judge the Northern Ireland final, and I wish Michael good luck in London.
The UK-wide final will now take place in London on March 14 with some of the UK’s top private, corporate and celebrity chefs judging finalists from all regions, joined by FutureChef 2020 winner, Jodie Cochrane.
Caitriona Lennox, Head of Northern Ireland at Springboard, said: “There has been some serious competition over the past six months and it’s hard to believe this journey is almost over. We are incredibly proud of Michael who will represent Northern Ireland in London next month, and who we have no doubt will stand out after the culinary talent on display today.
“There is nowhere else quite like Northern Ireland when it comes to the quality of produce and ingredients grown and grown here, and our hospitality industry recovering after the toughest two years. We We’re always so impressed with what our finalists bring to the competition and we can’t wait to see how Michael fares in the Grand Finals.
“I would like to thank all of our contestants, chefs, mentors, judges and supporters – including our local sponsor Henderson Foodservice – for donating their time and expertise to FutureChef. We work hard to prepare young people and arm them with life-learning skills to help our hospitality industry thrive in the future, and we have no doubt that every young person we have met along the way will leave their mark on the area.
Since the FutureChef competition began in 1999, nearly 200,000 young people between the ages of 12 and 16 have participated and learned to cook, developing their skills and knowledge, and many of them have established themselves in the industry. Throughout this time the competition has progressed and grown to be part of the global FutureChef program which offers industry links, online resources, learning modules, advice and career guidance. and a suite of resources for teachers.