VIDEO: James Devine on winning National Chef of the Year 2017

The  Staff Canteen

James Devine is National Chef of the Year 2017. He had his doubts about entering but ultimately came out on top. The Belfast native is currently sous chef at Michelin-starred EIPIC, run by Danni Barry, only the second female Irish chef to ever gain a coveted star.

Adam Thomason of Deloitte, Restaurant Associates and Charles Smith of Alyn Williams at The Westbury came in second and third respectively behind James.

James spoke to The Staff Canteen about what winning the award means to him, overcoming competition nerves, and life at EIPIC.

James Devine National Chef of the Year 2017

James Devine

National Chef of the Year 2017

You’ve joined a very prestigious list of chefs who have won National Chef of the Year in the past, how does that feel?

It feels awesome, even now. It’s a great honour to be on such a prestigious list of chefs, I’m a massive fan of many of the previous winners and every time when I think I’ve put Northern Ireland on the list I giggle to myself.

>>> Related: James Devine, National Chef of the Year 2017, to leave EIPIC to launch first restaurant

You almost didn't enter this year, what changed your mind?

At first I was quite dismissive about entering as I thought a sous chef from Belfast had absolutely no chance of winning. Ironically that became the very reason I entered. I was drawn to the sheer feat of the challenge. I liked the idea of defying the odds.

Did you learn a lot from your previous attempts?

Every competition you learn a lot, you grow, you develop, you get better. I always compare it to a sport, all the training in the world doesn't compare to an actual match. The pressure is different and the environment is unfamiliar, sometimes even hostile, so the more you put yourself in those situations the better you become.

How did you get into the industry?

Unfortunately I don’t really have a cool story to tell, basically I was very naive and thought it looked like fun.

What’s it like working at EIPIC and how did they support you?

Working at Eipic was great, I learnt loads during my time there and definitely walked away a better chef from it. I received great support from the restaurant, and Michael Deane himself was both very encouraging and financially supportive too. I got massive help from other chefs too, they would come in on their days off to help wash up and taste the food. I couldn’t have done it without my colleagues Nathan, Stuart and Jose Diaz.

What opportunities have arisen from winning National Chef of the Year?

To be honest I found it quite bizarre really with some of the job offers. I never in a million years would have believed anyone if they had said both Simon Rogan and Alyn Williams would ring me and offer me a job directly! Those calls meant as much as winning NCOTY. I had always planned to pursue my own thing after leaving EIPIC and I’m sticking to that plan.

What do you enjoy doing outside of the kitchen?

Outside of the kitchen I mainly enjoy spending time with friends and family. It often involves me cooking but I don’t mind as long as the company’s good. Recently I also took up Mixed Martial Arts and I like to spend at least one day a week in the cag.

Would you encourage other chefs to enter National Chef of the year?
Absolutely, I couldn’t recommend it enough.

>>> Read more about National Chef of the Year here 

NCOTY video sponsors 2017

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th December 2016

VIDEO: James Devine on winning National Chef of the Year 2017