DSC_0104Chef de partie Liam Skelton is celebrating after securing the prestigious title of North East Young Chef of the Year.

Liam, a chef at Newcastle’s Café 21 restaurant, competed against seven other chefs and cooked his way to win the accolade in a competition run by the North East Culinary and Trade Association (NECTA) that promotes high quality skills among chefs and the catering industry.

The 21-year-old from Seaham, who’s been with Café 21 for almost two years, stunned four judges with his 40º Salmon with Cauliflower & Horseradish Puree starter and Roasted Guinea Fowl with Celeriac & Truffle.

Liam started his cooking career at 16 as a commis chef at Seaham Hall when he was still doing his A levels at Durham College. He spent two years at Seaham Hall along with a spell at Wynyard Hall before joining Café 21, part of Terry Laybourne’s 21 Hospitality Group.

Liam said: “I recognised some of the chefs I was competing with, knew how good they were and then realised it would be a tough competition. When they announced that I’d won, I was really thrilled.

“I only found out about the competition 10 days before it, so training in the run up was very intense: an hour in the morning and two hours in the afternoon on the days I was working; and 9-6pm on the days I was off.”

While preparing for the competition Liam was mentored by another highly recognised Café 21 chef, Martin Malinowski, who has previously won regional and national cooking awards.

Nick Shottel, operations director at 21 Hospitality Group, said: “The team at Café 21 is very proud of Liam; he’s worked very hard to get this award. 21 Hospitality Group invests in training and young talent to create the best chefs of the future, so we are delighted when hard work pays off.”

In the future the young chef, whose favourite cuisine is South American, would like to open his own restaurant.