Celebrity chef plays host to Northern Ireland’s Springboard FutureChef winner

An up-and-coming chef from Belfast received the opportunity of a lifetime last week when he was invited to experience a Michelin-starred kitchen at Deanes EIPIC.

Sixteen-year-old Michael Thompson was personally invited by esteemed chef Michael Deane having impressed him during a competition to find Northern Ireland’s most promising culinary talents, which took place earlier this year.

The competition saw Michael Thompson crowned the Northern Ireland winner of Springboard’s FutureChef 2022 after wowing judges including Deane and Jean-Christophe Novelli with his creativity, skill, and flair.

Spending the day at Deanes EIPIC, Michael was hosted by Michael Deane himself and head chef Alex Greene, who is no stranger to cooking competitions having participated in and won the BBC’s Great British Menu in 2020.

Over the course of 6 hours, the esteemed chefs provided Michael with valuable hands-on experience, teaching him about running a busy kitchen and the skills, care, and attention needed in food preparation.

Michael said, “Today I have walked away buzzing from a day in the professional kitchens with Michael and Alex. To stand and observe how Deanes EIPIC Michelin Star restaurant runs has been amazing.

'Having just received my national insurance number, I can now seek opportunities - and there are already a few in the pipeline, which is fantastic! I will continue to aspire to master some of the skills I have seen in the kitchens with Michael and Alex, as well as my mentor, John Clark (at AC Mariott, Novelli City Quays).”

Reflecting on how his career has taken off, Michael continued, “Since competing in the FutureChef and returning from a fantastic experience in London at Westminster College, the excitement has continued since February. There has been a steady stream of opportunities that have come from every direction!

'My school Campbell College and my mentor John have continued supporting me 100% by encouraging me to say yes to everything from opening IFEX in March 2022, to attending a Chocolatier event with local sponsor Henderson Foodservice - and now a day of work experience at Deanes restaurant!”

“I am incredibly grateful for all I have experienced this year since entering Springboard’s FutureChef Competition. I had no idea what was coming my way. Springboard has helped me develop my culinary skills and connected me with those that can enable me to begin my career – I’m very grateful,” Michael concluded.

Discussing having the up-and-coming chef in his kitchen, Michael Deane said, “It was a privilege to welcome Michael to EIPIC today and give him the chance to experience a busy, hard-working kitchen. His talent, creativity, and breadth of knowledge stood out during Springboard's FutureChef competition, and it's great to see that this has only grown since.

“I'm confident Michael will achieve fantastic things in the industry, and I look forward to following his journey and seeing what he does next. We are more than happy to continue supporting Michael on his journey and would love him to join the team at Deanes.”

Springboard’s FutureChef is the charity’s flagship educational programme which sits alongside a wide range of employability programmes designed for young people to help build their employability and soft skills while giving them the confidence to kickstart a career in hospitality.

Chris Gamm, CEO of Springboard, said, “Inspiring the next generation of hospitality stars is vital for the sector recovery post-COVID. We are still unstaffed after the employment crisis, and our FutureChef competition aims to entice young people into the sector and explore the endless possibilities available.

'More than ever, we need to keep culinary careers at the forefront of students’ career choices, ensuring we have a steady stream of enthusiastic and talented young chefs entering the industry. Springboard’s FutureChef is perfectly placed to do this by equipping young people with the basic skills and knowledge that they need to make a start.”