After a two hour cook-off, student Lee McDonagh, representing Technological University Dublin – Tallaght, has been crowned the Knorr Student Chef of the Year for 2019, making the Tallaght campus the reigning champions for two years running.
Lee was up against seven other student chefs from across Ireland, in a competition to create two plates based around the theme 'Street on a Plate: a street food feast inspired by the food trucks, street stalls and farmers markets of Ireland'. This year's competition celebrated the evolving palette of the Irish population and its influence on Irish food markets.
The judging panel comprised of Unilever Food Solution's new Executive Chef Ireland, Audrey Crone, special guest judge Bobby Kerr, and Lorain Walsh, Chef Lecturer, Waterford Institute of Technology.
Students were marked for their creativity and interpretation of the theme, as well as the presentation of each dish, food waste management and allergen awareness. Lee impressed the judges with his two dishes of lobster maki, sushi, avocado, yuzu and caviar; and a contemporary presentation of fish and chips with a warm tartar emulsion.
Coming in second was Daniel Hartigan representing Waterford Institute of Technology; while Bangaly Doumbouya from Limerick Institute of Technology came in third place.
Daniel created a dish of jalapeno poppers, Cashel Blue, black pudding, pineapple salsa, pepper puree; and a second dish of pork carne asada taco, burnt apple, red onion pickle, avocado foam.
Bangaly's first dish consisted of madtarbark with prawns and crispy king prawn skewers rice vinegar gel/chilli; while the second plate was sticky chicken thigh with noodles and stir-fried vegetables.
Winner Lee McDonagh shared his inspiration behind each dish: “I have a keen interest in Japanese cuisine and enjoy learning about different cultures and food traditions. My dishes were reflective of traditional street food plates, with a more modern interpretation.
“I’m lucky that my father works as a professional chef and I’ve grown up observing his love for food and passion for the industry which also provides great inspiration for my own work,” he added.
Speaking about the competition, Audrey Crone, Executive Chef Ireland at Unilever Food Solutions, said: “This year marks my first Knorr Student Chef of the Year competition. The talent demonstrated by each student chef is a real testament to the training centres and institutes of Ireland and made quite an impression on the judging panel. Each competitor displayed great chefmanship and creativity in the preparation and cooking of each of their plates.
“The hospitality and food industry in Ireland is undergoing a time of upheaval with chef shortages. Today’s competition assured me that with the forthcoming training chefs, the industry is in good hands. It’s also an exciting time for graduating chefs to forage their professional careers,” she added.
As well as holding the Knorr Student Chef of the Year title, the winner will take part in a London food tour, sampling what the UK capital city has to offer in terms of produce, street food and Michelin experiences.