Lewis Gallagher, Stanley House Hotel, Mellor wins North West Young Chef 2012

Proud Lancastrian Lewis Gallagher beat off competition from chefs from around the region to be named North West Young Chef 2012. Emma Mayoh reports PHOTOGRAPHS BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

Thousands of college students will eagerly rip open their A-level results this month. Some of them will pass with flying colours earning a place at their preferred universities. But for some it will mean disappointment.

But they can take comfort from Lewis Gallagher’s story. The Blackburn teenager was devastated when his dreams of becoming an architect were ruined after he failed to get the right grades. But now, as a 21-year-old, he is flying high. He is training in the kitchens at Stanley House Hotel in Mellor and was recently named North West Young Chef 2012.

It was after he received his results Lewis moved from working part time to full time at The Rock Inn in Tockholes, owned by his grandmother, Norma. He then moved on to the Eagle and Child in Barrow where his enthusiasm for this new career flourished. He has spent the past two years as commis chef at The Grill on the Hill restaurant at Stanley House Hotel. Under the tutelage of executive chef Steve Williams and head chef Andrew Parker, Lewis said his culinary prowess has grown.

He said: ‘It was Steve and Andrew who encouraged me and put me forward for the competition when I didn’t have the confidence. They have brought the best out in me and I have a lot to thank them for.

‘I won the Lancashire heat last year and I was determined I was going to win this year. Steve and Andrew helped me to develop my skills and become a more mature chef. When I found out I’d won I couldn’t believe it. I was absolutely over the moon and also relieved because it meant I didn’t have to wake up every morning thinking of the dishes I was making.’

Lewis had to showcase his culinary skills to an intimidating panel of judges including British master chef, Brian Mellor, the youngest to win a Michelin star, Aiden Byrne, David McLaughlin, head chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant at Lake District Hotel Holbeck Ghyll, Stephen Doherty, chairman of judges for the Gordon Ramsay Scholarship and acclaimed chef and hospitality consultant Max Gnoyke.

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He prepared a menu of Yellison’s goats cheese with Cumbrian air-dried ham cannelloni and Ormskirk onions, a sustainably sourced smoked Lancaster eel with Lancashire Waldorf salad and a strawberry millefeuille with a lemon yoghurt mouse from Ann Forshaw.

His talent as well as his knowledge of local produce and seasonal food shone through earning him the top prize at the competition held at Manchester College in Didsbury.

Lewis, who also got through to the final last year, faced competition from Owen West from The London Carriageworks in Liverpool, Scott Fairweather from the Punchbowl Inn and Restaurant in Crosthwaite, Amelia Vella from Bents Garden Centre in Warrington and Laura Daniels from the Chester Grosvenor Hotel. His prize is a week-long bursary at a top European restaurant, a luxury weekend away and a set of Chroma world class chef’s knives. He will also compete in the national competition being held in London in November.

Lewis said: ‘I just want to get better and better now. I am so proud that I have represented Lancashire because we’ve not won it for the past few years.

‘I’m really lucky that so many people have supported me. When I failed my A-levels I was absolutely devastated but now I feel like I’ve found the thing I was meant to do. I have never given architecture a second thought. I’m now looking forward to the national competition.’

The North West Young Chef competition, which this year celebrated its 10 year anniversary, was borne from Brian Mellor’s desire to recognise up and coming chefs in the region, with emphasis on local provenance.He said: ‘Over the ten years of this competition, I have seen the quality of the competitors grow and grow. As judges, we’re not there to trip anyone up, we’re there to help these young chefs develop their skills and confidence.

‘We’re here to help them on the journey, going from being good chefs to being great chefs.’

The print version of this article appeared in the August 2012  issue of Lancashire Life  We can deliver a copy direct to your door – order online here

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