The much-anticipated Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year 2023 competition comes to a close at the finals this Sunday, taking place at the InterContinental Dublin Hotel, where the six finalists will create their final dishes for the esteemed panel of judges. As one of the Euro-Toques Ireland community partners, TheTaste.ie team accompanied the finalists on their educational culinary trips to both West Cork and London, where the young chefs visited a range of producers and enjoyed 2 Michelin-starred meals at both Dede, West Cork, and The Dysart Petersham, London.
Ahead of the finals, we had a chat with the six young chefs about their career thus far, where they see themselves in the future, and their experience of being in the final six at the Young Chef of the Year competition.
The six finalists are:
Leticia Miranda: Mae Restaurant, Dublin
Conor Morrissey: Glovers Alley, Dublin
Matthias Beuque: Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin
Shauna Murphy: Terre Restaurant, Co. Cork
How long have you been cooking?
Conor and Matthias both started when they were 15 years old, Leticia and Marcel have both been cooking for 8 years, Shauna for 7 and Adam for 4.
What is your earliest memory of being in the kitchen?
Most of the young chefs have fond memories of cooking with their mothers and family members. For Shauna, she was cooking from age 5 with her grandmother, and for Conor, watching his grandmother bake something fresh every week (and playing with his little sister’s toy kitchen more than she did!) Funnily enough, for both Marcell and Matthias, it was shelling peas and peeling green beans with their mums, and for Adam, his mother was a hotel manager in Limerick, and often brought him into the kitchen, sparking his interest in the world of food.
Did you always know you wanted to be a chef? What made you realise that this was the path for you?
For Shauna, she always wanted to do something that involved caring for people and being creative, and she realised that as a chef, she could do both!
It was much more complicated for Leticia: “I’ve always had this desire but it was never encouraged, in some countries working in a kitchen wasn’t something that was so respected a few years ago and we still experience this problem in several places around the world. For many, the kitchen has never been the first option and thankfully this has evolved a lot.” Following this thought-process, she began studying Environmental Engineering with the hopes that she could practice culinary arts as a hobby, but very quickly realised that this was not the path for her and soon after, Leticia dropped out and began studying Culinary Arts.
For Adam, the negative assumptions surrounding a career as a chef made him hesitant, but once his decision was cemented, his mother helped him get a job at the Falls Hotel in Ennistimon, where he worked alongside Chef Ronan Kelly, and he’s never looked back since!
Conor managed to go from fussy eater to a finalist in the Young Chef of the Year competition: “I would watch my Ma cook for us as kids, then my nanny and my Uncle Tommy, the way food brought everyone together around a table was something I loved so I just sort of fell in love with it and never left a kitchen since!”
For Marcel, reading a comic with beautiful food imagery as a child was what did it for him, and for Matthias, his lack of enthusiasm for secondary school ultimately put him on the path he’s on today.
Which other chefs have influenced you and who would you love to work with in future?
With an international set of finalists for the competition, comes a range of impressive influences for these young chefs.
Shauna: Grainne O’Keefe, Claire Smith, Marguerite Keogh and Dannie Barry; all very strong female chefs she’d love to work. Additionally, Ahmet Dede, as someone with a different culture of food, from whom Shauna believes she can learn a lot.
Leticia: Alex Atala, Clare Smyh, Rafael Cagali, Ian Baiocchi, Ferran Adria, Rasmus Munk and Joris Bijdendijk.
Adam: Wade Murphy and Ronan Kelly, who to Adam, “both really emphasised the importance of getting the basics right and not getting ahead of myself before I’ve learnt what I really need”. Additionally, he’d love to work for Nathan Outlaw and Andrew Walsh.
For Conor, watching Gordon Ramsey on the TV growing up was a huge influence on him, as well as Daniel Clifford, who he’d love to work for in the future. Conor’s mentor, Andy McFadden of Glovers Alley, is one of his biggest influences now: “The knowledge he passes on, techniques and his passion… Since joining his team he’s helped me come on so much as a chef and helped my career big time.”
Marcel:Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, Eneko Atxa of Azurmendi and René Redzepi of Noma.
Matthias met Christian Tête D’oie, a chef from Lyon, when he was in school, and was truly inspired by his humbleness and how he looked after the youth.
Is this your first time competing in the Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year competition?
Shauna, Leticia, Conor and Marcel have all competed in the past, whereas for Adam and Matthias, it is both of their first times.
What has the process been like since you started?
For Shauna, being part of a group of passionate chefs and suppliers who care about what they do has been amazing. Leticia insists that she will be forever grateful for the experience and knowledge that she has gained both professionally and personally. Adam notes how much more valuable it feels as you progress through each stage, and for Conor, he has found that the relationships that he has built with both the chefs and the producers are extremely valuable when working in this industry and he’s delighted with how everyone involved is always willing to pass on their knowledge. Marcel openly states that it has been both stressful and rewarding, and for Matthias, he has learned a lot despite the challenges.
What is your relationship with your Young Chef mentor like?
All six finalists have great relationships with their mentors – each one has pushed them to be the best they can be, teaching them the important techniques and believing in them above all else.
You have been on a number of trips as part of the Young Chef of the Year competition – what has been your favourite?
For Shauna, Conor and Marcel the West Cork visit this year was certainly a highlight. Conor states: “Meeting everyone down there doing their part for Irish food was a real eye opener for me, it’s not something you associate when you see their products or social media stuff, but behind all this the work they do for us as chefs is incredible! Preserving traditions and keeping it sustainable will help future generations of cooks and also give help the Irish food scene the boost it needs.”
Leticia remembers her time during last year’s competition, where they visited the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Adam did not attend the West Cork trip, but found the visit to London, meeting Chef Kenneth Culhane and dining at his Michelin star restaurant, a highlight. Matthias is anticipating their upcoming Food on The Edge trip.
You recently visited West Cork with Euro-Toques Ireland. What was your favourite part of the trip?
For Shauna and Leticia, the highlight of the trip was the visit to the Gubbeen Farmhouse with Fingal Ferguson. They were both fascinated by how the products were made, and the respect for raw materials and traditions. Shauna was impress by Fingal’s knife workshop, stating that it was just like Hogwarts for chefs – magical, and full of history! Conor notes the water fight the young chefs had in the Fingal’s back garden – they must let loose somehow!
Conor also enjoyed the morning swim with Ahmet Dede, and him and Marcel both loved the visit to the Woodcock Smokery with Sally Barnes. An expert in her field, the young chefs were fortunate enough to arrive early and have a casual chat with Sally over a cup of tea as she spoke about all things Irish seafood, demonstrating her passion for the industry.
Who would be your favourite small Irish food producers and why?
Shauna: Velvet Cloud Sheep’s Milk and Yogurt – she visited the farm and was truly impressed.
Leticia: Gubbeen Farmhouse, Velvet Cloud Sheep’s Milk and Yogurt, Wildwood Balsamic and Abernethy Butter. For the excellent quality of the products and respect for the ingredients.
Adam: Skeaghanore duck and St Tola Goat Cheese.
Conor: “Dermot Allen of Wine Tarven Farms! For me he’s the whole package, a genuine person with the love for what he does, he supplies us with suckling pigs and the time, energy and passion he puts into them is incredible, he makes our lives easier by suppling such beautiful pigs! I’d also be a big fan of Maria from Ballymakenny.
It’s cliche to say but I could go on and on about small producers in Ireland that are doing big things from the cheese, beef, herbs, seaweeds, vegetables, honey the list is endless and it’s great to see, long may it last and keep growing with new producers for us to work along side to help Irish food to keep moving developing and holding our own against the rest of the world.”
Marcel: Lough Boora Organic Farms
Matthias: Ryan’s Rhubarb
What would you consider to be your signature dish?
Most of the young chefs don’t believe they have signature dishes yet, stating that they are still growing and learning as chefs.
For Shauna, she says hers is Smoked Paprika Chicken, and cheese pasta! Marcel’s is pan fried duck breast, smoked leek cream and a white balsamic poached apple stuffed with duck liver pate.
What is your favourite restaurant in Ireland?
Shauna: Dede, West Cork
Leticia: Variety Jones, Delahunt and Library Street.
Adam: WA Sushi, Galway
Conor: Dede, West Cork, and Lignum for a Sunday dinner. “I hope it’s not cheeky to say but I ate in Glovers Alley recently and it was unbelievable, the service, food and room all add to an overall amazing experience!”
Matthias: Pickle, Dublin
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time in your career?
All of the young chefs have dreams of opening their own restaurant or business, still working in the kitchen 5 years from now.
What has been your favourite part of the Young Chef of the Year journey?
For Marcel and Matthias, they both enjoyed how the competition has pushed them beyond their limits and how much they have learned. Conor and Leticia have both loved meeting the people and the producers. Shauna and Leticia have both made friends for life and learned a lot, and for Adam, getting into the final for him was an unreal feeling.
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