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2015 Young Chef of the Year Announced

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2015 Young Chef of the Year Announced

Thursday, December 03, 2015 

2015 Young Chef of the Year Announced

The winner of the 2015 Euro-Toques Young Chef Competition was announced this week, with Ruth Lappin (pictured right), 22 year-old Chef de Partie at Restaurant Patrick Guilband, taking home the prestigious award.

Lappin was deemed the winner after three months of interviews and culinary skill tests judged by a panel of experts. She beat out four other young chefs to take home the coveted title. 

Of this year's five finalists, two were young women, an unusually high number compared to previous years. One of those two, 22 year-old Ruth Lappin who is chef de partie at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud - went on to be crowned this year's Euro-toques Young Chef of the Year. Previous winners include Neven Maguire, Gearoid Lynch and Mark Moriarty.

The award was presented at the Shelbourne Hotel by special guest judge, three time Michelin-starred chef Clare Smyth, Chef Patron at Restaurant Gordon Ramsey in London.

The other four finalists at the competition were:

  • John Fitzmaurice, 26, Head Chef at Moloughney’s, Clontarf
  • Conor Halpenny, 20, Chef de Partie at Brabazon Restaurant, Tankardstown House
  • Robert Browne, 21, Loam restaurant, Galway
  • Roseanne Meehan, 24, Junior Sous Chef at Knockranny House Hotel

Lappin will now embark on an all-expenses paid stage at Gordon Ramsay’s flagship restaurant working under Clare Smyth MBE, who was this year's distinguished guest judge at the competition.

Born in Antrim, Clare Smyth grew up on a farm, left school at 16 and went on in 2007 to become the first female head chef in the UK to secure three Michelin stars. She has held on to them ever since, at the flagship Restaurant Gordon Ramsay where she is chef patron today.

Why there aren't more female chefs in the industry?

Clare agrees that the increased presence of female chefs is better for everyone. "It makes it a much more pleasant environment to work in," she says, before adding, "but you can go too far the other way, with too many women. It's better to have a good balance, as in any working environment."

Clare resisted the label of 'female chef' for a long time, wanting to be known for her talent rather than her gender. "I never wanted to be separated," she explains, "but as I've grown up I do understand the importance of having someone at the top of the industry who you can recognise yourself in, and say 'if that person can do it, I can do it'."

As to why there aren't more female chefs in the industry, Clare says she simply doesn't know. "The working environment is way better now, for everyone, so being a chef is a much more attractive profession - and a much more professional profession too," she says. "It's people's choice whether they want to go into it, but there's nothing to stop them doing it if they choose to."

Ruth Lappin's early career choices saw her studying to become a nurse before setting her sights on cheffing. She agrees with Clare that the issue is more down to the choices being made by potential young chefs than actual obstacles within the industry.

Ruth is one of four female chefs working under Kieran Glennon at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, in a team of just over twice that number. "If I was to walk into a two-star kitchen and see four girls working there, I would think it was great," she says. She admits that growing up with four brothers has served her well in the kitchen environment, where you have to be thick-skinned and not take things personally, no matter what your gender. "It's challenging," she says, "but it's challenging for everyone." If anything, Ruth believes that the women she has worked alongside are stronger chefs. "It seems that girls seem to stick it out longer than guys," she says in reference to her work colleagues. "And in my class in college, I think the girls were the strongest kitchen-wise."

Ruth recently graduated from DIT Cathal Brugha Street with a BA in Culinary Arts. Of her 45 fellow graduates from her class, only five are currently working in restaurant kitchens, with the rest of them choosing alternative career routes such as food product development.

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That three of those five are young women seems impressive - until you consider that 70 per cent of Ruth's classmates were female. Statistically, then, about a quarter of her male classmates chose the professional kitchen life, compared to just one 10th of her female classmates. Ruth is not convinced that it's a gender issue, however. "I don't know if it's an issue that there aren't that many girls in the kitchen, or just that there aren't that many people coming into the kitchens."

Part of it, she suggests, is the contrast between life as a culinary arts student and life in a professional kitchen. "Cheffing is full on and what you're taught in college is not what it's like," she says. "They teach you everything you need to know, all the basics, but you need to be practising those skills. I feel like a kitchen is the only place you're gonna learn to be a chef."

Work Experience

Before she began her degree, Ruth worked a summer in a professional kitchen to be sure that it cheffing was for her. She gained further experience in Dublin's Fallon & Byrne and Manhattan's WD50 while studying.

As Euro-toques Young Chef of the Year 2015, she will travel to London for an all-expenses-paid stage working under Clare Smyth, who has tipped Ruth as "one to watch". "That blew my mind," says Ruth. "She said to me 'I'd be really interested to see where you'll be in five years time, when you come into your own as a chef', which is just the biggest compliment anyone can pay to you."


The CareersPortal Team