Meet the National Chef of the Year 2017 finalists: James Devine

The  Staff Canteen

National Chef of the Year 2017 finalist James Devine, is the sous chef at EIPIC in Belfast.

Despite being offered a place at Queens University Belfast to study law, James took a year out to pursue a career in hospitality instead. During this time James worked as a kitchen porter at a local restaurant and later became head chef at the Black Cat Restaurant and Deli on the Green in Dungannon as well as working part time as a college lecturer.  He now works with Danni Barry at Deane’s EIPIC.

Are you nervous about cooking live at the restaurant show?

I am but I think everybody is and you would be silly if you weren’t nervous. I suppose the category of judges we’re cooking for it is pretty nerve racking because I never really expected to be in the same room as these judges let alone cook for them.

How do you let your personality come out in your cooking?

I think every chef will probably say the same here as we all try to be seasonal and produce tasty food. I feel quite fortunate with the timing of the competition because it’s going to be in October and for me personally, that’s my favourite time of the year. I like the food at that time of year and all the colours. I like food you can only get at a certain time of year because then you can enjoy it and appreciate a bit more because it’s not around for that long. So for me, the timing of this competition is very fortunate.

Who have been your greatest influences?

Locally I think we’re pretty lucky in Northern Ireland. Last year there were two Michelin stars handed out with one going to my own head chef, Danielle and the other to Stephen Tolman from Ox in Belfast so those people are really champions of Northern Ireland, and even Michael Deane as well. Belfast is a special place and it’s had a troubled history, so for food to take prominence and be important is such a stretch because 15 years so it wouldn’t have been at the forefront of anybody’s mind. So it’s really nice and I think local influences are very important and in a way if you look at the judges in this competition it’s very hard to not be influenced by them as most of us will have their books and we all enjoy reading Sat Bains and watching him on Great British Menu.

What do you hope to achieve in the future?

I think most of us get into this industry to someday be our own boss and I’m no different. I would like to be in charge of my own ship, whether that’s a restaurant or a chain of more casual restaurants. I would like to own my own business and be involved with food in the catering industry but I can’t see myself staying in fine dining. I think as a person you wouldn’t want to stay in it for too long. I suppose I would like to own my own business in about five years’ time.

What would winning mean to you?

It’s nice to win anything; I think that’s why you enter any competition. I’m actually a really competitive person and I hate to lose so this is just another buzz and I think we have all entered to win. Realistically I can’t believe I have got to this stage as there’s a really good calibre of chefs and it’s great to go over and represent myself. I would like to win but I don’t think I would be that disappointed if I didn’t because the competition is so tight so to even be in amongst these other chefs is an honour in itself.

>>> Read more about this year's finalists here

On Tuesday, October 4 a new National Chef of the Year will be crowned. We take a closer look at this year's finalists hoping to produce winning dishes at the final at The Restaurant Show, which will impress the judging panel. 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th September 2016

Meet the National Chef of the Year 2017 finalists: James Devine