Fom baking buns in his granny’s kitchen as a child to cooking alongside Gordon Ramsay in the celebrity chef’s Michelin-starred London restaurant, Belfast boy Stephen Hope has come a long way.
The 22-year-old, who beat off 500 other young chefs to win a prestigious scholarship with television star Ramsay in 2008, has just been named Northern Ireland’s youngest ever Chef of the Year.
Stephen, who comes from Poleglass, whipped the competition by taking the top spot in last week’s competition in Belfast.
The chef, who currently works as sous chef in Deanes on Belfast’s Howard Street, proved he can certainly stand the heat in the kitchen by wowing the judges with a mouth-watering meal in front of a packed crowd at the King’s Hall.
Stephen’s ability to cope in pressure cooker situations is exactly why top chef Gordon Ramsay put his faith in the Belfast boy two years ago, awarding him a scholarship to train at some of the world’s best restaurants.
While he is modest about his achievements, Stephen, who has also worked at the Merchant Hotel, is confident about his future. “I would be very disappointed if I reach the age of 30 and don’t have my own restaurant — or chain of restaurants,” he said.
“Especially during my time working in London I learned that you have to believe in yourself. While some chefs seem to think the more on the plate the better the dish, I think I know when to leave it and as the saying goes ‘less is definitely more’.”
Food capitals including Paris and New York are still very much on the menu for Stephen as he continues his scholarship with Ramsay, but he is adamant that home is where his heart is.
“I still have the opportunity for training in Paris and New York in Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, but to be honest I am happiest when I’m working in Belfast.”