Ardee man Conor Halpenny was named the Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year at Dublin’s Intercontinental Hotel on Sunday night, beating off hot competition from five other chefs from around the country to claim the prize, at the second prize of asking.
The 22-year-old, who works as a chef-de-partie at Chapter One Restaurant, was announced as the winner of the competition – open to chefs under the age of 26 – at 10pm last night. It comes after Conor was previously a finalist back in 2015, when he was working at Slane’s Brabazon restaurant, located at Tankardstown House.
As well as winning a stunning bronze trophy designed by chef and artist Kevin Thornton, Conor also receives expense-paid work experience at swanky London restaurant Corrigan’s Mayfair, where he will work alongside Richard Corrigan. The venue is a former London Restaurant of the Year.
On Sunday, Conor and the other five competitors – 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 – took part in the final day of competition in Dublin.
The chefs were asked to prepare a main course and dessert – within a timeframe of two and a half hours. The theme for this year’s competition was Back to Basics – Old School Cooking. Conor’s winning dishes were, for main, a savoury dish of beef, cabbage, bone marrow and colcannon, and, for dessert, a sweet dish of set rice, fermented apple, yoghurt and malt.
The judges, which included Corrigan, said they were impressed with the “flair, imagination and skill in execution” demonstrated in Conor’s winning entry.
What a day! Thank you to everyone for the congratulations, words can’t describe how I feel right now! Thanks to @EurotoquesIrl and @Laroussefoods for everything! And everyone @ChapterOneDub for all the help! #YC2017
— Conor Halpenny (@c_halpenny) November 20, 2017
Remarkably, Conor, from Nicholastown and a former Ardee Community School pupil, was mentored for the competition by Chapter One proprietor Ross Lewis – despite having only started work at the popular Parnell Square venue. Speaking upon receiving his award, Conor remarked, “I’m only there six weeks and I’ve learned the most I have in my life.”
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.
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.
— Marie-Claire Digby (@mcdigby) November 19, 2017