Northern Ireland Chef Mark tastes success at glitzy UK awards
A Co Armagh man who has been crowned the Best Young Chef in Britain at a star-studded awards night in London has vowed to keep his feet on the ground.
Lough Erne Resort sous chef Mark Winter (23) beat off competition from nine other finalists to scoop the top gong at the British Restaurant Awards ceremony in Porchester Hall on Thursday night.
"I never expected to win because I was the only entry from Northern Ireland and I was up against great people including Craig Johnston, who won MasterChef last year," he said.
"I just wanted to experience the event because I won't get a lot of chances to go to something like this - it was very formal and just such a great night."
The finalists at the star-studded red carpet event were chosen by industry experts, but it was readers of Chelsea Monthly magazine, The National Post and members of the World Restaurant Awards Guide who had the final say.
Other winners included Gordon Ramsey who picked up the Best Chef accolade.
"I was promoting it on social media a lot, but the whole of Ireland must have voted for me because I won by an extravagant amount of votes," Mark said.
The Richhill man, who completed his training in Portadown's South East Regional College when he was 16, began his culinary career in Sintons at the Bridge in Scarva.
He said the prestigious award might open up new opportunities in the future.
But Mark, who has already been declared Northern Ireland's Young Chef of the Year, has no plans to leave his mentors at the Lough Erne Resort anytime soon.
Mark travelled to the glitzy ceremony with his girlfriend, Lauren Ferguson (22), who lives in Enniskillen.
"I'll stick around Lough Erne for another while," he said.
"I have only been there for two years and only took on the role of sous chef a year ago - I want to master my craft there."
The ambitious cook praised his "fantastic mentors" at the five-star resort including executive chefs Noel McMeel and Stephen Holland.
"They pretty much taught me everything I know," he said.
Mark, who is excited about flying home with the award, promised the recognition will not go to his head.
"It's a massive achievement which feels a bit surreal," Mark said.
"I will keep my feet firmly planted on the ground, but that doesn't mean I can't also push myself and enter more competitions."