Young National Chef of the Year 2018: Danny Young, November 2017

The  Staff Canteen

This is the first in a series of monthly blogs from sous chef of Northcote Manor in Lancashire, which holds a star in the Michelin Guide UK, and winner of the Young National Chef of the Year 2018, Danny Young.

After winning the title of Young National Chef of the Year 2018 I was approached by The Staff Canteen to write a monthly blog so here it goes, my first one!

Danny Young quoteFirstly, I just want to say how great an achievement it was to win Young National Chef of the Year! It was such a proud moment for myself to achieve something like that, especially at the age I am as well. I had competed in the competition for the last couple of years and I think this year was my last chance due to my age so I’m over the moon! Last year I came in third and the year before that I was runner up so the aim for this time round was to come out on top. Fortunately for me this was the year! When it came to my menu I wanted to keep it simple but sometimes keeping it simple makes it difficult to translate onto the plate, so it can be a bit of a risk but it was all about trying to make it exciting and unique to me. That was the inspiration for me, to do something simple and sticking to the brief.

For my starter with the Norwegian haddock, I did a take on Fish & Chips, a classic favourite, but with a combination of Asian and Lancastrian influences. My main course was Asian-inspired as well, which is becoming a more mainstream and popular style of cuisine these days, and again it was keeping it quite simple using the best beef I could get my hands on and the best mushrooms. It all came down to the ingredients.

The brief for dessert was for a syrup sponge pudding, which is quite basic and difficult to execute in the style of fine dining, so I had the idea of doing a sugar blown apple to elevate my dish – this required quite a bit of skill, especially during the pressure of a competition.

On the day, I think it was the most pressure I have ever faced! Being in the top three for the last two years definitely meant there were a lot of expectations for me to win. My own mind set this year was that if I didn’t win, I had failed, and not because I was up against 10 of the best young chefs in the UK, that’s an achievement in itself but because I was going into it to win, that was my goal.

That’s why I chose ingredients that I’m familiar with and knew would stand out on the plate. You have to look at what the judges are judging you on and think about what they would like to eat from a plate. This is where using the knowledge and experience of mentors comes in really handy – understanding how the judges decide the winner!

Unfortunately, the electric went off on my station towards the end so that caused frustration and a little panic as it pushed my schedule back 10 minutes. As soon as I knew I was behind, it felt like I was going to fail. When it came to plating my dessert, all I could focus on was that it was late but I got it out eventually! When you’re feeling rushed and under that level of pressure it’s easy to think you’ve failed but when you take a step back and look at the plate you realise actually it’s not that bad at all. It’s always difficult to keep it to the same schedule as on the days you’ve practiced the menu in a familiar kitchen, but that’s the challenge and excitement the competition brings.

So anyway, after finding out I had won, we were all invited to the after party at Fortnum and Masons. We had a wonderful banquet and as “Obsession 18” was launched the next day in London, I was able to meet up with some of my team from Northcote and have extra celebrations! Being able to celebrate with my Executive Head Chef, Lisa Goodwin-Allen was great because she’s been my biggest mentor since I started as an Apprentice at Northcote in 2010 so it was great to share my win with her.

Danny Young
Danny Young

Since then everything has just been a bit of whirlwind. I’ve had so many people contact me with congratulations or to discuss prizes and interviews, which has been a bit overwhelming so now it’s all about getting my head back down and adjusting back to work life. But I’m looking forward to what the New Year will bring.
Winning the Young National Chef of the Year has had a huge impact on my career already but there are still so many opportunities that are arising from this success. I’ve always wanted to go to New York, it’s one of the biggest cities in the world for food culture and the food scene is massive out there so I’m keen to do a stagier out there, with the additional support of Northcote, as part of the competition prize. Before that though, I have my first trip to Norway with Norwegian Seafood Council in January which I’m really excited for, but more on that in my next blog.

Danny is Young National Chef of the Year 2018 having won the competition at the Restaurant Show at Olympia London in October. Danny is currently sous chef at Northcote in Lancashire. His first experience in fine dining came after he left school when he secured a job working in a Michelin starred kitchen. Danny has come in second place in the Young National Chef of the Year competition for the last two years and was North West Young Chef of the Year in 2014.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 24th November 2017

Young National Chef of the Year 2018: Danny Young, November 2017