Danni Barry of Deanes, from washer to Irish Chef of the Year
A Northern Ireland woman who started her culinary career washing dishes in a restaurant at the age of 14 has become the first female to be named Irish Chef of the Year.
Danni Barry is the head chef at Deanes Eipic restaurant in Belfast and the only female chef in Ireland to have a Michelin star.
The 30-year-old from Mayobridge in County Down beat a host of top chefs to claim the award at the Food and Wine Magazine Restaurant of the Year Awards in Dublin yesterday.
The award for Ulster Restaurant of the Year also went to Deanes Eipic, while acclaimed restaurant Ox and Rayanne House in Holywood were highly commended.
And completing a hat-trick for Eipic, owner Michael Deane claimed the Entrepreneur of the Year award for his ground-breaking work in helping establish the fine dining scene in Belfast.
Ox was also crowned Wine Experience of the Year, while the restaurant's Alain Kerloc'h was awarded Sommelier of the Year.
Danni's career started off as a 14-year-old washing dishes in a busy restaurant where she fell in love with the hustle and bustle of the kitchen. But she's come a long way since then.
"It's a fantastic but very unexpected win for me, I was shocked," she said.
"It really has been our day. We all work so hard in the restaurant so it's great to be rewarded for all the effort.
"Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink has really helped create an awareness of how great food here is.
"It's great to know that I am the first female to win chef of the year in Ireland, but it's a team effort."
Michael Deane said they were "over the moon" with the awards.
"We didn't expect to get the haul that we did," he said.
"Danni works very hard in the morning and leaves very late at night, it's a job she's sensational at. We are very proud of her.
"She has really helped put Belfast on the map. You look at other places around Europe and she has really put Irish cuisine in a different place.
"Today was Danni's day and I take my hat off to her and long may it go on. The whole restaurant is fabulous, we took a big risk but it has worked very well for us and we are very happy about where it is.
"Restaurants are not easy places to be but it's about people coming to the door and paying the money.
"Some good restaurants fail overnight, but we are very lucky with the brand of Deanes which has also supported Danni as well."