The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin hosted a gala banquet to announce the 2015 winner of Euro-Toques Young Chef of the year. Over the course of three months, five finalists battled it out, trying to outdo each other at culinary skill tests, to be crowned Ireland’s hottest, youngest chef. To go along with winning this esteemed title, finalists were competing for an all expenses paid stage in London at Gordon Ramsay’s flagship restaurant – “Restaurant Gordon Ramsay”.
After much debate in kitchens, special guest judge, Clare Smyth MBE from Antrim was ready to announce the winner. Smyth being a former protégée of Gordon Ramsay, as well as being the first and only woman to hold and retain three Michelin stars in the UK, crowned 22 year old Ruth Lappin from Laois as this year’s winner. She will work under Clare Smyth, who is Chef Patron at the world renowned Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.
Although Ruth Lappin is the future of Irish cooking, her career could have gone in a totally different direction. She was originally in college to become a nurse, however the draw of food and cooking was too strong to resist, as a result she would soon change to studying a BA in Culinary Arts at DIT Cathal Brugha Street. After completing stages in Dublin’s Fallon and Byrne and the cutting edge restaurant of world famous WD-50 in New York, she is currently working as Chef de Partie at two Michelin star Patrick Guilbaud’s.
The competition was judged by Irish culinary powerhouses like Mark Moriarty, a Euro-Toque winner in 2013 and the 2015 San Pellegrino World Young Chef, Graham Neville head chef of restaurant Forty One at Residence, Wade Murphy Commissioner General of Euro-Toques and proprietor of 1826 Adare, and Paul Kelly Executive Pastry Chef at The Merrion Hotel and judge on The Great Irish Bake Off. The chairing judge being Lorcan Cribb, the former Commissioner General of Euro-Toques Ireland.
Ruth Lappin’s competition in the final included John Fitzmaurice, aged 26, the Head Chef at Moloughney’s in Clontarf. Conor Halpenny, aged 20, Chef de Partie at Tankardstown House and Brabazon restaurant in Meath. Robert Browne, aged 21, a medical student at the National University of Ireland in Galway, and Roseanne Meehan, aged 24, Junior Sous Chef at Knockranny House Hotel.
The finalists had to overcome one final test at the gala banquet where they had to prepare a feast for Ireland’s most celebrated chefs and guests. The theme of this year’s competition was the “Origins of contemporary Irish cooking”. With assistance coming from a professional team, and front of house duties being performed by Declan Maxwell from Luna, Ruth Lappin would ultimately emerge victorious. Three months of hard work combined with mentoring from her Head Chef Kieran Glennon, finally paid off as Ruth was announced as this year’s winner.
Speaking to special guest MC’s Marie Flynn and Domini Kemp, Ruth said she never thought she would be the last one standing when she first entered the competition. She felt the past three months had been an immense learning curve and gave her an opportunity to work with many inspirational chefs. Of course, meeting Clare Smyth was a real career highlight for her, and Ruth still cannot believe she will be working under her next year.
Euro-Toques and La Rousse Foods were looking for a young food ambassador who can help develop an Irish identity of cooking and promote Ireland abroad and at home. It is a role that Ruth Lappin is extremely happy to fill, and she is thrilled to be representing Ireland in the future.
Stuart Campbell, General Manager at La Rousse Foods, is ecstatic seeing such talented young chefs entering the competition. He felt Ruth’s unique style and take on the theme of contemporary Irish cooking, made her a deserving winner.
Wade Murphy points out that the finalists have had to show huge amount of dedication and passion to get to the gala banquet, that this year had the highest amount of entries to date. With the competition being so close, the future of Irish cooking is set to be in safe hands.
Such high standards in this year’s Euro-Toques means Ireland’s culinary future is going to know no bounds. These finalists are destined to change the landscape of contemporary Irish cuisine, and we should all keep a very close eye on their journeys.