Darren Woods from 14North is this year’s I Love Manx Chef of the Year.
The finals of the competition were held yesterday at the Isle of Man Food and Drink Festival at the Villa Marina Gardens.
In front of a large and knowledgeable audience, Darren cooked up a vegetarian delight – made of locally sourced beetroot, goat’s cheese, quails’ eggs, pea puree and walnuts.
Darren faced stiff opposition from fellow finalist Danny Johnson from The Abbey Restaurant, who served up half a Manx lobster with Niarbyl crab and Ballaugh potato salad garnished with confit tomato petals, asparagus mousse and asparagus tips.
The judges – Richard Ronan MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, chef Tony Quirk and Brian Brumby from the Manx National Farmers’ Union – had a difficult job deciding on a winner.
Darren received £500 cash and an engraved plaque, plus £500 for 14North to spend on advertising.
He has worked at 14North for two years, following stints in leading hotels, and he said: ‘My career has been a gifted one, working with some awesome chefs from whom I have learned a lot.’
He has been perfecting his ‘pride and joy’ beetroot dish for two years and said: ‘My inspiration came from the local produce we have available to us. I made it my challenge to use only Island-based products and produce. I wanted to show people that local is better because money spent here is helping the Manx economy to grow, unlike buying from across.’
Janna Horsthuis of sponsor Robinson’s said: ‘We are delighted to be associated with this competition, which celebrates the quality and variety of local Manx produce which can be enjoyed at home and in many restaurants around the Isle of Man. The recipes cooked by the finalists made excellent use of local produce.’
Richard Ronan MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, said: ‘The setting of the Isle of Man Food and Drink Festival was a perfect place for two of our finest chefs to show the tasty and imaginative dishes that can be created using local produce. Well done to both finalists plus chefs who took part in the hard-fought heats as they showed what culinary talent we have locally.’
The I Love Manx campaign is a Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture and Manx NFU initiative to champion providers of quality local produce and raise awareness of food and farming-related issues.
The Chef of the Year competition gives local chefs an opportunity to show off their culinary flair using the finest local ingredients.
Top: Darren receiving his trophy from Janna Horsthuis of sponsor Robinson’s
Bottom: Judge Brian Brumby, President of the Manx NFU, finalist Danny Johnson of The Abbey Restaurant, judge Tony Quirk, winner Darren Woods of 14North, Janna Horsthuis of Robinson’s and judge Richard Ronan MHK, Minister for DEFA.