Nicky Reid from Lisburn, executive chef for Sodexo at Almac, Craigavon, scooped silver at the Sodexo UK and Ireland Chef of the Year Grand Final at Hotelympia in London on Tuesday, March 6, in his first time to enter the competition.
The Lisburn man impressed the high-profile judging panel with his starter of Kohlrabi linguine with prosociano and black truffle pesto, followed by an entrée of hake with a risotto nero, langoustines and fennel while his dessert was a chocolate truffle tart with kumquat and bergamot icecream.
He said: “I’m just over the moon with my result and it was fantastic to compete at such a high level. Preparing and cooking three top class courses of two plates each in a 90-minute timeframe is challenging enough outside the heat of competition, so I practised every day for two weeks beforehand so that everything was fresh in my mind. It kept me strong, focused and prevented the inevitable competition nerves from hampering my performance on the day.”
The competition judges, which included well-known TV chefs Cyrus Todiwala OBE, NL and James Tanner, complimented Nicky on his cooking techniques, skill and use of ingredients.
Julianne Forrestal, executive craft development chef for Sodexo Ireland, said, “Winning the Chef of the Year title for Ireland last September was just the first step for Nicky in a six-month journey that culminated at the Grand Final in March. Nicky attended a mentoring day and a chocolate workshop in the UK with Michael Egan, our head chef at VHI and a member of the Panel of Chefs in Ireland, where his proposed competition dishes were reviewed, deconstructed, refined and finessed with Michelin-starred chefs. The focus is on continual learning and development so it’s a fabulous experience for any chef.”
Nicky was assisted by David Fountain, group executive chef at PayPal Ireland, two-time winner of the Sodexo Ireland Chef of the Year title and seasoned competitor in the UK and Ireland Grand Final.
“I am very grateful to Julianne Forrestal, our executive craft development chef, and Michael Egan, head chef at VHI in Dublin for their mentoring, and especially to David Fountain for his support and invaluable words of wisdom on the day itself,” Nicky continued.
Nicky began his career working in a restaurant in his home town of Lisburn and credits one of the chefs that worked there, Jim Mulholland, now an executive chef for Jean-Christophe Novelli, for inspiring him to become a professional chef.
Margot Slattery, country president, Sodexo Ireland, said, “One of the worst snowfalls in many years across Ireland and the UK could have derailed Nicky’s competition chances but the wonderful help in terms of kit and supplies from several of our Sodexo colleagues, especially Rodney Zeiler, executive head chef at Sodexo’s head office in London, epitomises the kind of support that our colleagues lend to one another so that people can achieve their very best.”
Sodexo Ireland, part of the global Sodexo Group the world’s largest services company, delivers services that improve the quality of life to clients in business and industry, education, financial and healthcare. It employs approximately 3,700 people in over 230 locations across Ireland, serves 90,000 people daily and spent over €19 million on Irish food in 2016.