The hospitality sector was hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic – many venues were forced to close and a lot of them were unable to re-open and a lot of the young talent making their first steps into the industry had to find employment elsewhere.

It is now more important than ever to find and nurture the next generation of chefs and kitchen teams who will build the future of our best restaurants.

Our Young Chef of the Year Award recognises the achievements of one of the brightest new stars – and the impact one of our established hospitality heavyweights.

The winner, Keira Carolan, is a 19-year-old trainee chef who has already worked in some of the best kitchens in the country.

Growing up in Donegal on the west coast of Ireland, she started cooking at home with her mum and has only ever wanted to be a chef. She worked in local restaurants, but then crossed the water to join the Simon Rogan Academy where her passion, skills and knowledge have really taken flight.

As part of her apprenticeship, she spent seven months in the kitchen at Rogan’s Michelin star casual dining venue Rogan & Co in Cartmel before moving to Henrock, at Linthwaite House Hotel overlooking Windermere. Last month she moved to her final Academy posting, at L’Enclume which holds three Michelin stars. This summer she also worked in Rogan’s Parade Ring Restaurant at Royal Ascot.

Great British Life: Keira and Dylan Evans won the National Seafood Chef of the Year competitionKeira and Dylan Evans won the National Seafood Chef of the Year competition

‘I have been in the Academy for a year now and have learnt more than I could have ever imagined,’ she said. ‘After the Academy I hope to work within the company and move up the ranks while developing my skill set further.

‘Being part of the Academy has helped me learn so much, it’s given me so many different opportunities, and has helped me develop as a person and as a chef. It’s great to get recognition for what you do and it encourages you to push even more, and helps you transfer everything you’ve learnt into your day to day work.’

The Simon Rogan Culinary Academy was launched in July 2021 as a direct response to the ongoing staffing issues faced by the hospitality sector with a mission to reignite passion for the industry and to provide the highest standard of training and guidance.

The Academy works with Kendal College’s Culinary department to give students an 18-month hands-on immersive learning programme designed to give them the skills to forge a successful career.

Students work directly with the teams in Rogan’s Lake District restaurants and those placements are supplemented with practical and theory-based learning, provided by tutors at Kendal College, one of the UK’s leading hospitality schools.

In June, Keira and fellow Academy student Dylan Evans won the National Seafood Chef of the Year Competition – beating young chefs from Salford College into second place.

Marcin Maryniak, the head of HR and recruitment for Simon Rogan, said: ‘Kiera is a hardworking and dedicated student. Her enthusiasm and hard work are already helping shape her career, which as she progresses with her placements as part of the Academy by Simon Rogan will no doubt be hugely promising.’’

And Paul Burgalieres, executive head chef for Simon Rogan’s north of England restaurants added: ‘I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside and mentoring Kiera during her time with as part of the Academy by Simon Rogan and I’ve been hugely impressed by her willingness to learn and throw herself into every opportunity that arises – she will be a chef to keep an eye on for the future.’,