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Talented Co Down teen chef will cook up a Scottish storm as he learns the art of fine dining

By Margaret Canning

A teenager from Co Down is to take a culinary journey from burgers in a Banbridge bistro to learning new skills from the winner of MasterChef the Professionals.

Max Buller (18) from Loughbrickland works as a chef at The Coach brasserie in Banbridge but will soon to be taking a trip to Edinburgh.

There, he will be given the opportunity to work for three days with the team at the four-star Radisson Blu - where the general manager is Richard Mayne, also from Banbridge.

His challenge will be to help prepare dinner for 60 guests attending the Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland (HIT) fundraising dinner on March 9.

Gary Maclean, winner of MasterChef the Professionals 2016, will be overseeing the set fine dining menu produced by head chef Barath Kumar and his kitchen team.

Max said his passion for food was inspired by his mother Elaine's home-cooked stews, casseroles and home baking, from cakes to Swiss rolls.

His father Robert is a dairy farmer at Bray Brook Farm in Loughbrickland. "I have cooked with my own meat from the farm and that's something I'd like to get more into," Max said.

He admitted to being both nervous and excited about having the opportunity to work in the same kitchen as Gary Maclean and the team at Radisson Blu Edinburgh. On the first day, he'll take part in a briefing before prepping on day two and preparing dinner on day three.

"It will be my first time cooking for fine dining in that type of way, so it's a mixture of worry and excitement.

"It's an extremely exciting opportunity for me to learn new things and work with really experienced chefs.

"It will be nerve-racking to work with Barath Kumar and his award winning kitchen team at Radisson Blue Edinburgh.

"It's also going to be mind-blowing, simply incredible to be sharing the same kitchen as Gary Maclean, winner of MasterChef: the Professionals 2016. In Banbridge, I'm used to preparing up to 170 covers of tasty brasserie food like pan-fried sea bass, salmon and even burgers.

"So being part of the team that will prepare the fine dining cuisine for the HIT dinner on March 9 will be a completely new experience.

"The main challenges for me will be keeping calm under pressure and performing any tasks asked of me to the highest possible standard.

"It's going to be an incredible experience and I can't wait to travel across to Scotland."

The young chef, who graduated from South Eastern Regional College (SERC) in Lisburn in 2015 with NVQ Professional Cookery qualifications, was awarded a merit and third place in the poultry category at IFEX 2016 in Belfast.

His mother and father are friends with Ronnie Mayne - the father of Richard Mayne, who also grew up close to Banbridge and is now general manager of the Radisson Blu in Edinburgh.

Max says he enjoys preparing poultry, and duck breast is his favourite dish to prepare and cook for guests.

While the menu for the HIT fundraiser on March 9 is still being finalised, he may well find himself helping to prepare starters that feature pigeon, crab and hand-dived scallops and a main that draws on the finest cuts of lamb.

And he's hoping in the future to open his own fine dining restaurant.

"I really enjoy dining in places in Northern Ireland like Lough Erne Resort & Spa in Enniskillen, as well as OX and the Pheasant in Annahilt.

"But I'd also really like to travel and try out the food in places like South America and Australia, and build my experience as much as possible.

"I'd also like to go to Spain and work in a fresh seafood restaurant."

When at home and on his days off, he enjoys cooking for his mother and father - who he says are both fans of fine dining.

Richard Mayne said he is looking forward to the passionate young chef joining his kitchen team in March.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for Max to gain invaluable skills and experience in a fast-moving award-winning kitchen," he explained.

"I am certain that Max will relish this unique three-day training opportunity and we look forward to welcoming him to Edinburgh next month."

Mr Mayne, who once studied at the Newry College of Further & Higher Education, added: "Radisson Blu Edinburgh is very proud that Gary Maclean, winner of MasterChef: The Professionals 2016 has kindly agreed to give his time to support head chef, Barath Kumar and mentor his team as they prepare outstanding cuisine for 60 special guests during our HIT fundraising evening on March 9."

Richard's parents, Margaret and Ronnie, have run Greenacres Guesthouse in Banbridge for 30 years.

HIT Scotland is a Scottish-based charity with a mission to assist people to achieve their potential within Scottish hospitality.

Since it was founded in 1994, the charity has awarded over 1,000 bursaries and 10,000 scholarships.

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