The winner of Springboard’s FutureChef - a national competition to find the country’s next culinary superstar - has been revealed as Kristen Nugent, 15, from Killeeshil, in County Tyrone, following a tense final at Westminster Kingsway College in London.
Taking place at Westminster Kingsway College in London yesterday (13 March), the final saw 12 up-and-coming young chefs from across the UK battle it out to be crowned champion in the annual competition hosted by hospitality charity, Springboard.
During the final stage of the competition, the competitors had 2 hours and 45 minutes to prepare a main course and dessert for a panel of industry-leading judges, including Adam Handling, Nieves Barragan Mohacho and 2023 National Chef of the Year Ben Murphy.
Since winning her regional heat in Northern Ireland, Kristen has worked with award winning Dungannon-based mentor chef James Devine, to hone her skills and create dishes that wowed the judges in every round, including smoked and poached rainbow trout, citrus cured rillette, hens’ egg, chive mash, soused vegetables and herb butter sauce along with her rhubarb, vanilla panna cotta, granola crunch crumble and maple dessert.
Taking the crown, Kristen will now receive ongoing support, development, and apprenticeship opportunities from Springboard, including the chance to have her recipes published.
Discussing her win, Kristen said, “It was absolutely amazing and so unexpected. The first hour went slightly sideways but I stepped back, took deep breathes and after a 30 second break I got myself back together and it went really well after that!
“It has been a whirlwind experience competing in the FutureChef competition - and it is amazing to see the hard work finally pay off. The support and guidance I have received from my mentor James, has been instrumental in my success. I am more passionate than ever about pursuing a career in hospitality and I cannot wait to see what the future holds and the opportunities this will unlock.”
Celebrating Kristen’s success, her mentor James, said: “It has been a pleasure to see Kristen grow over the past few months - her confidence and knowledge have skyrocketed. Competitions like FutureChef really help the next generation explore their passions and it is exciting to see the next generation of culinary superstars developing and experiencing success already.”
FutureChef Judge, Chef and TikTok star, Poppy O’Toole, shared, “I’m so excited to be judging the national finals of FutureChef. It was winning my school’s FutureChef competition back in 2009 which made me realise I was good at cooking.
'From the days of being a culinary student, to working in Michelin starred restaurants to now cooking to 4 million followers online with two cookbooks and being a TV judge, I hope I can inspire the next generation how amazing it can be to work in food!”
Discussing the importance of the competition, Chris Gamm, CEO of Springboard, said, “Our FutureChef competition is always a big moment in our calendar and we always love witnessing the talented young individuals entering the industry and exploring their passion and love for the sector and all it has to offer.
“The sector is still very much recovering from the impact of the past 3-years and the ongoing economic strain is only placing more pressure on an already struggling industry.
'The FutureChef competition plays a vital part in introducing new talent to the world of hospitality. Many well-known industry heavyweights have supported FutureChef, from Monica Galetti to Michel Roux Jr, Angela Hartnett, and Clare Smyth. It is simply a great steppingstone into the industry.'
Aiming to find the UK and Ireland’s next generation of culinary talent, Springboard FutureChef is a school-based programme that supports the development of life skills while inspiring young people to pursue an exciting career within the world of hospitality. The schools-based competition, which is now in its 24th year and has seen more than 214,000 young people aged 12-16 take part, supports the development of culinary and life skills while inspiring young people to pursue an exciting career in hospitality.
The competition called on budding chefs to compete and develop their culinary skills, with different rounds introducing participants to important themes around sustainability, plant-based, and zero-waste cooking.
Outside of FutureChef, Springboard has recently celebrated hitting its Springboard to 2022 target, helping 10,000 young people into jobs in hospitality last year.