Belfast Met students impress at top NI culinary events

Isis and Connor
Isis and Connor

Belfast Met students have been impressing professionals across the catering and hospitality industry in not one but two events.

In celebration of UK Seafood Week NVQ Level 3 Professional Cookery students Connor Bradley and Isis Palamine competed against 5 Northern Ireland colleges in the Big College Seafood Cook Off. Isis scooped the Chef’s Choice Award as one of the most promising future chefs in the competition.

Conor Bradley, NVQ Level 3 Professional Cookery Student.

Conor Bradley, NVQ Level 3 Professional Cookery Student.

Isis said: “Taking part in competitions such as the Big Seafood College Cook-off was beyond words. Just being there around the most exceptionally inspirational chefs all around Northern Ireland was truly an opportunity. I did not expect to win anything other than pure knowledge from these amazing chefs, however receiving such a commendable award was an honour.”

The winning, locally sourced, dish was prepared, cooked and adjudicated at the Mourne Seafood Bar Belfast along with the guidance of their allocated chef mentor, Andy Rea of Mourne Seafood Bar. Notable culinary mentors included Stephen Jeffers and Wayne Carville of the Mourne Seafood Bar and Cookery School, while Danny Millar of Balloo Inns, Paula McIntyre of Radio Ulster and Raymond McArdle of Maisons Restaurant. All the competing colleges served their meals at a dinner for government and influential names in the culinary industry.

Connor Bradley experienced another career enhancing experience at the Hospitality Exchange Industry Chef Conference at the Europa Hotel, in which he had the opportunity to assist two top Michelin star Chefs, Dannie Barry (Deanes EIPIC Belfast) and Ollie Dabbouse (Dabbouse, London) on stage in front of a large industry based audience.

Connor said: “It was a great opportunity for me to work alongside three amazing chefs - Danni Barry, Brian McDermott and Ollie Dabbous. It’s unbelievable how much you can learn at competitions in such a small period of time. Over the space of a few days I learnt about the local seafood of Ireland alongside our chef mentor Andy Rea. I would recommend that part in competitions to any culinary students wanting to advance in their career.”

Isis, Connor and Andy

Isis, Connor and Andy

Both events are an integral part of developing their culinary experience and building their reputation with leading chefs. However Connor and Isis would not have had the opportunity to participate without the training staff of Belfast Met.

Thomas Turley, Belfast Met Lecturer in Culinary Arts, said: “I am very proud of Connor and Isis’s achievements, they have practiced their Belfast Met culinary training and they have demonstrated their creative side, which is essential for any chef to succeed in the business. Competitions and conferences are an ideal way for Chefs to raise their profile and network with leading professionals and that is why we encourage all of our catering students to step up and take part in them.”

Dr Lynn Gilmore, Northern Ireland Manager at Seafish highlighted the creative potential of young people in the culinary industry today and the importance of using local produce.

She said: “It’s fantastic to see great local talent using top-quality Northern Irish seafood such as prawns, plaice, mackerel and crab. Culinary competitions and events such as Seafood Week are about celebrating the amazing seafood available in Northern Ireland as well as the skills and creativity of local chefs, colleges and catering students.

“As we approach 2016 and the Year of Food and Drink in Northern Ireland, we can be very proud of the rising stars that are coming out of the industry and colleges, and encourage them to continue to be creative, whilst sourcing their ingredients locally.”