A young chef at one of Newcastle’s top restaurants is celebrating after winning the prestigious title of North East Young Chef of the Year.

Alex Walker, a demi chef de partie at 21 Newcastle, competed against six other chefs to win the top accolade in a competition run by the North East Culinary and Trade Association (NECTA) – an organisation that promotes the catering and hospitality trade and provides skills and opportunities to chefs and other catering professionals.

The 23-year-old from Gateshead took part in the competition which was held at St James’s Park on Tuesday 4 October.

Alex demonstrated exceptional cookery expertise and impressed the judges with his main course of Fillet of Pork with a Chicken, Sage and Onion Mousseline and Black Pudding Fritter and his dessert course of Iced Vanilla Parfait with Poached Pear, Salted Caramel and Liquer de Poire William.

Alex has been with Terry Laybourne’s 21 Hospitality Group for two years, initially working at the Broad Chare as a commis chef before moving to 21 a year ago to further his training and skills and gain experience in a larger kitchen. He began his cooking career working at a family run Italian restaurant in Gateshead whilst studying catering at Gateshead College and then moved on to work at Fratello’s in Jesmond before joining 21 Hospitality Group in 2014.

Commenting on winning the competition, Alex said: “I’m really proud to have won the title of NECTA’s North East Young Chef of the Year as I was up against some strong competition. The run up to the day of the competition was intense; I was practising my knife skills and dishes before work and during my split shifts as well as in any spare time I had. When they announced me as the winner, I was totally chuffed.”

Whilst preparing for the competition, Alex was mentored by 21’s senior sous chef, Martin Malinowski, who has previously won both regional and national cooking awards.

Brand director at 21 Hospitality Group, Nick Shottel said: “Everyone here at 21 is thrilled for Alex. He dedicated hours of time to perfecting his skills and dishes in order to win this award. 21 Hospitality Group invests in nurturing young talent and building careers so we are delighted to see Alex’s hard work pay off. He has an exciting future ahead of him”.