Matthew Looram Discusses Young Chef Olympiad Plate Trophy Win
TU Dublin culinary arts student Matthew Looram was awarded the Plate Trophy at the ninth Young Chef Olympiad (YCO) competition, recently held in India, where he also won the Rising Star Award.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in March of 2023.
In total, student chefs from 56 countries competed in this international prestigious competition, which was run over a five-day period in five of India’s major states/cities: New Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Goa and Kolkata. Matthew’s winning dish was King Prawn Ratatouille, Riz Aromata and Prawn Bisque, which consisted of king prawns cooked in an alternative ratatouille, braised aromatic rice, and a rich prawn bisque to finish.
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Dr Denise O’Leary (head of the School of Culinary Arts & Food Technology, TU Dublin) congratulated Matthew, stating, “We are very proud of Matthew’s achievements. I look forward to following his career, especially as it is such an exciting time to become a chef.”
Matthew’s mentor, George Smith (lecturer of culinary arts, TU Dublin), added, “An event like the […] Young Chef Olympiad is a major opportunity to get recognition of your talent as a chef.”
Matthew, tell us about this award and what it means to you.
Winning this award, to me, has been life changing. It is the fruit of the work of the last five years of my life and has given me a profound confidence for my career ahead. This award has so many emotions connected to it – everything from passion to anger. This competition required a momentous amount of commitment and training, which, of course, comes at high cost. Creating sacrifices of free time for my loved ones, and indeed myself, was a huge challenge, but, nevertheless, worth it all in the end.
The Young Chef Olympiad is a huge global competition that brings together the world’s best young chefs in a fierce battle for the title of being the world’s best. This competition lives off the powerful idea eating together. This competition brings together people from all over the globe , with different backgrounds, and indeed languages, however, despite the language barrier between some of us, we all spoke one common language: food. This competition highlights the true power of food, as it breaks down cultural and social barriers between people.
My interest in food stems my family. We are a big foodie family, and coming together for dinner was the highlight of all our days. We all loved to cook at home – no matter how good the food actually was – and this really sparked a passion for me at such a young age. My mother would always pride herself with the fact that she never bought a jar of tomato sauce, as she would much rather make the sauce herself and flavor it herself, naturally. loved, and I always think is such a wonderful grounding in cooking.
My ethos in cooking is simple: work clean, work fast, and work smart. Every day is a school day, no matter what, and there is always something new for you to try. I love to cook, and I would like to say I know how to cook at this stage, but I don’t know everything, and that is something fundamental in my ethos that excites me and drives me on even more.
I began working in kitchens at the age of 16. I was in fifth year in school and would work weekends and every chance I could get.
I fell in love with it straight away. It excited me so much, seeing the energy and buzz around a kitchen in a service, and also learning the fundamental building blocks of being a chef. I worked around in my hometown of Mullingar until I finished school and then moved to Dublin, to begin my studies of culinary arts in TU Dublin. I gained my first Michelin experience in Etto, on Merrion Row, and really began to fan the flame for my passion even more. This kitchen introduced to me so Many new ingredients and cooking techniques, and really gave me an honest challenge to hard work.
Moving on from Etto, I had the wonderful opportunity to go for a stage at Restaurant Sat Bains – two Michelin stars – in the UK. This was it for me. A door opened like no other. Working in a two-Michelin-star restaurant as creative as Sat Bains really gave me a creative side, as well as forging the path for a solid future. The connections and, more importantly, the skills I gained while working there – I have no doubt – will stay with me for the rest of my life.
I returned from the UK to finish the final year of my degree and began working in Uno Mas, where I am currently working. Working here over the last seven months has, again, advanced my career even further, learning about different styles of food and working with many chefs from different backgrounds.
What’s next? Well, who knows? All I know at the moment is work, college and sleep. The priority for me is finishing my degree with a good mark and working hard for the summer. The time for forging is now, and celebrating later . I look forward to seeing what doors open for me, and I would be looking to gain more two- or three-Michelin-star experience within my early career.
After graduation, there are many things I want to do. Firstly, pat me on the back. It’s been a long, tough four years, and it’s been a real challenge, having to balance work, life and college, all at the same time . Secondly, I will continue to work and push on even further within my career, and perhaps maybe travel abroad, to see a different side of the coin.
There are a number of chefs I really admire. Ever since a young age, watching cookery programs growing up, Neven Maguire and the Roux brothers [Albert and Michel] were a real influence on me. I adored their love for food and how they conversed their emotions onto the plate. Seeing the passion they displayed and feeling the same really created a sense of connection with what was going on.
More modern now, at the age of 21, I admire those who have done it – the young Irish chefs who have forged a name for themselves. Many of them are past graduates of my course, as well – Mark Moriarty [the Greenhouse]Eric Matthews [Chapter One] and Margaret Roche [Wild Honey Inn]to mention a few. These chefs all play a vital role in influencing me, and indeed my fellow peers in their careers.
I think the industry is at a turning point in its life. Now is the time for modernism. Now is the time for change. The inclusion of women and decrease of workplace abuse is changing rapidly, and all for the good. have worked in, the focus has always been on the staff, and I think this is something that has changed hugely. Staff are number one in any business and make it possible for it to run. Without them, nothing would be possible.
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