Northern Ireland man tastes success as he wins award for top young chef
A Northern Ireland-born chef has been awarded young chef of the year after seven years' service at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Cornwall.
Chris McClurg (29) originally from Hillsborough in Co Down, was named the judges' choice at the Observer Food Monthly Awards 2018 last Thursday for his work at Paul Ainsworth's No 6 in Padstow.
The senior sous chef said: "It feels fantastic. It's a great achievement but not just an individual achievement as it's good for the restaurant and good for the team as well. Personally, with awards like that, it takes work as it's not just one day's work or a dish on a day, it's a recognition of people's work over a period of time. Nothing happens overnight."
Chris was always interested in the service industry. When he passed his 11-plus he asked his mother to take him to Cayenne - one of the best restaurants in Northern Ireland.
Many of his memories of home revolve around food. He said: "We went to Killary Harbour and we would literally get mussels off the rocks and go home and we would have real classic mussels, white wine and crusty bread.
"Those memories, like boiling whole crabs from Strangford Lough - where everyone knew somebody who knew somebody who had a boat - and all those sorts of coastal forage and sea-caught food at family gatherings, those are my fondest childhood memories."
Aged 19, Chris flew to London to work for top butcher Jack O'Shea. After three years he moved back to Belfast and set up a cocktail bar called Love and Death with a couple of friends.
When Paul Ainsworth got to the final of the Great British Menu in 2011, Chris's old tutor Chris Fearon put him in contact. Chris did a two-day trial for Paul, fell in love with it and moved to Cornwall soon after.
Chris remains ambitious and wants to keep pushing the restaurant further. He said: "For me, the next goal I have is that I want to take the reins in the No 6 kitchen and become head chef. I want to build the team and push the restaurant, under Paul's guidance, further."
He added: "Paul is a great mentor, he's incredible, he's the best person in the world to work for, to work with, alongside, and I see a bright future here."
Craig's top tips to bring the best out of your cooking
1. The single most important attribute of any cook, be it home or professional, is the ability to season properly. Be it with soy, salt, sugar or lemon, the ability to season correctly is number one.
2. Keep it simple.
3. Let the produce do the talking.
4. Always have the ladies in mind. If you keep the ladies happy, you're always going to have guys happy. So cook with a feminine touch.
5. Cook seasonally. You need to do a lot less to things when they're at their best. It's no secret that strawberries in December taste like a graveyard. But a beautifully roasted guinea fowl or a bird served with some amazing peas and beautiful mint is one of the nicest things on the planet. That in late spring or early summer is one of the best things to eat as there's very little to do to it.