A Londonderry catering student has been chosen to work alongside the creme-de-la-creme at celebrity chef Raymond Blanc’s exclusive restaurant.
Mark Armstrong, who has been honing his skills at the North West Regional College, will undertake a work placement with Blanc's world famous Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons restaurant and hotel in Oxfordshire which has two Michelin stars.
The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will see the 18-year-old from the Waterside follow in the footsteps of his college lecturer John Crowe, who has previously worked at the restaurant.
Mark said he is hoping the placement will help him develop his culinary skills and career potential, in the company of some of the world's most accomplished chefs.
Mark currently studies the Level 3 Professional Chef's Diploma course at the College's Strand Road campus.
He said: “I can’t wait to go now. I’ll be heading over on November 4 and start the next day.
“It will be hard going, but I’m really looking forward to it.”
Mark said he began cooking at a young age and has known since primary school what he wanted to do.
“I love the creativity aspect of it, being able to make proper food.
“I’m really excited and a bit nervous now to be going to England. This is the top of the top. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do, how they produce Michelin star food.
“I have never been in a Michelin star restaurant before so it will be a whole new experience.
“It will improve my skills, boost my CV and give me invaluable experience.
“I really appreciate how lucky I am to be working with Raymond Blanc.”
Mr Crowe, who has previously sampled the Le Manoir experience, said: “Raymond Blanc is a world-renowned chef and it's a great opportunity for one of our students to work with him.
“The setting and environment is conducive to learning, developing and expressing yourself as a chef.
“It's wonderful for Mark to build his industry contacts and gain valuable insight into his chosen career path.”
In the future Mark hopes to emulate Blanc’s success.
“I’d love to open a restaurant in Belfast, that’s my dream,” he said.
Le Manoir, which has two Michelin stars, serves up fine French cuisine, with prices in the region of £150 for a nine-course dinner. The BBC competition series, The Restaurant, was staged at Le Manoir — which has its own helipad to allow celebrities and the jetsetters to touch down in style.