James Richardson from Weavers Lodge in Gilford has been crowned DARD NI IFEX Chef of the Year 2016

Pictured presenting James Richardson with his award is (left to right: Sean Owens, Director of the Salon Culinaire at IFEX; Permanent Secretary for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Noel Lavery; DARD NI Chef of the Year, James Richardson from Weavers Lodge and Toby Wand, Event Director, IFEX
Pictured presenting James Richardson with his award is (left to right: Sean Owens, Director of the Salon Culinaire at IFEX; Permanent Secretary for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Noel Lavery; DARD NI Chef of the Year, James Richardson from Weavers Lodge and Toby Wand, Event Director, IFEX

James Richardson, 31, who’s chef at Weavers Lodge in Gilford has been named the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Northern Ireland Chef of the Year at IFEX.

DARD NI Chef of the Year is one of the highlights of Salon Culinaire competition and James impressed the judges with his creative flair and inspirational use of ingredients throughout the course of the competition’s challenges.

“IFEX is synonymous as the event where NI’s top chefs first won their medals and to be crowned DARD Northern Ireland Chef of the Year is incredible, especially in the Northern Ireland Year of Food & Drink.”

James Richardson, DARD NI Chef of the Year

James competed against five other culinarians to win the top ChefSkills accolade at the IFEX food, retail and hospitality exhibition, which took place at the Titanic Exhibition Centre from Tuesday 8th until today, Thursday 10th March.

This was James’s third consecutive IFEX, taking part in the DARD NI Chef of the Year competition, and at the previous two events, James was placed runner-up, losing out by just one point in 2014.

This year, James wowed the judges with his menu choice, creativity and flair in the kitchen. His amuse-bouche combined a crispy hen’s yolk and parsnip puree, followed by a starter dish of cod with coco beans, broccoli puree, burnt onion and broccoli tempura.

For the main course, James cooked up cannon of lamb with celeriac puree, potato and celeriac terrine in a red wine jus. To finish off an incredible menu, for dessert James created a white chocolate, lemon and basil mousse with olive caramel, raspberry sorbet and black pepper and sesame tuile.

Thrilled with winning the top accolade, James comments: “IFEX is synonymous as the event where NI’s top chefs first won their medals and to be crowned DARD Northern Ireland Chef of the Year is incredible, especially in the Northern Ireland Year of Food & Drink.

“I was up against some truly talented competition, but this year, I was determined to give the NI Chef of the Year competition 100%, and all of the efforts have now paid off!”

On presenting James with award, Permanent Secretary for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Noel Lavery, added: “The DARD Chef of the Year competition highlights the strong links between our farming industry, the culinary environment and our successful agri-food supply chains. As we progress through the 2016 Year of Food and Drink, it is important that we maximize all opportunities to showcase Northern Ireland as a quality food destination both locally and internationally.

“Chefs here are incredibly fortunate to have some of the finest producers and artisan companies on their doorstep and it’s a testament to our agri-food industry that Northern Ireland’s international reputation is continuing to grow.

“I would like to congratulate each of the six finalists for their creative and talented use of our local products and I wish each of them well in their culinary careers.”

Paul Cunningham from Brunel’s Restaurant in Newcastle was named runner-up at the event, in which the standards were exceptionally high.

For many years, IFEX has been pivotal in nurturing some of the best culinary talent that Northern Ireland has to offer and the Salon Culinaire at IFEX this year was no exception. Supported by Department for Employment and Learning (DELNI), Flogas and Stephen’s Catering Equipment Co, almost 250 student and industry chefs took part in 17 category competitions and La Parade des Chefs student team event.

The competition was judged by some of the industry’s most respected chefs and was adjudicated by Gary Gamble, IFEX Chairman of the Judges.