Ardee chef Conor Halpenny is hoping to go one further in this year’s Euro Toques Ireland Young Chef of the Year, after following up his 2015 nomination with another place on the six-strong shortlist this year.
The 23-year-old from Nicholastown, Ardee is currently working as the chef-de-partie at the Michelin Star Chapter One restaurant in Dublin’s Parnell Square.
Conor will join Daniel Guerin (24) of Campagne, Kilkenny, Evan O’Ceallaigh (21) from Ardilaun Hotel, Galway, 24-year-old Bronagh Rogers of Viewmount House, Jason Nolan (22) from Aghadoe Heights Hotel, Killarney and 21-year-old Jack Lenards among the six-strong finalists for the 2017 accolade.
All six will progress to the final judging session in Dublin next month. Before that, they will all be flown to Italy to have lunch at Da Vittorio in Bergamo which has three Michelin stars itself.
At next month’s judging session, Conor and his opponents will have to cook two dishes – one savoury and one sweet – inspired by this year’s theme which is back to basics, old-school cooking.
In 2015, Conor – who at the time was chef de partie at the Brabazon Restaurant at Tankardstown House – was among five finalists of the Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year, which is the country’s premier culinary competition for young chefs.
Having spent time working locally in Dooleys, Conor studied professional chef training at Crumlin College and had been working at Tankardstown since March 2015 – working closely with Head Chef Rob Krawczyk. He has also spent time at two Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurants – Downstairs in Clontarf, Dublin and The Courthouse in Carrick.
“Cooking was bred into me,” he said at the time of his nomination for Young Chef of the Year first time around. “Baking with my mam, cooking with my uncle’s fresh produce. I was surrounded by home cooking, I love the buzz of the kitchen.”
Last year, Conor spent time working at the three Michelin star Royal Hospital Road restaurant in London. Head Chef of Royal Hospital Road (also known as Restaurant Gordon Ramsey) Clare Smyth, acted as a special guest judge on the 2015 Euro Toques Ireland Young Chef of the Year competition.