A talented young chef from the Honourable Society of Lincolns Inn has won the coveted title, specialist wholesaler Wing Yip’s Oriental Cookery Young Chef of the Year 2017.
Aaron McLaughlin, 25, battled it out at a cook-off held at University College Birmingham (UCB) today (Wednesday April 5). The winner was announced at an official awards dinner at UCB.
As well as the accolade, Aaron has also won a once in a lifetime trip to Hong Kong where he will gain an insight into the hospitality industry at Michelin-starred restaurants and explore the region’s well-known street food scene.
Putting Aaron and the other finalists through their paces was an elite panel of judges including MasterChef finalist, Larkin Cen.
On winning Wing Yip Oriental Cookery Young Chef of the Year, Aaron said: “I am absolutely delighted, this is really a dream come true. I faced some challenging competition from the other finalists, but having placed third last year, I was able to take on board feedback from the judges to work on and develop my skills and I returned a winner – what a brilliant end to a fantastic day!”
To receive a place in the cook-off the 16 finalists were required to submit a two-course Oriental menu idea, featuring a street food starter and a high quality restaurant standard main which they were to prepare for the judges on the day.
Aaron wowed the judges with a starter of Octopus rice roll, moille sauce and sesame and seaweed crisp followed by a main of creedy carver duck leg terrine, Asian greens, blood orange gel, duck skin and heart crisp with duck broth.
Close runners up in this year’s competition were Rhys McCausland securing second place, and Elyse Baxter who came third – both from the House of Commons. Each were presented with trophies and Wing Yip vouchers worth £500 (second place) and £250 (third place), to further their inspiration in Oriental cooking.
Larkin Cen said: “Already in its fifth year, the nationwide competition has firmly established itself on the culinary calendar.
“The calibre of chefs, the diversity of the menus as well as each chef’s choice of Oriental ingredients were at an all-time high this year, which made selecting the winner and runners up extremely difficult.
“Aaron had really worked hard on flavour in every element of his cooking. The street food dish in particular shone in terms of both the creative presentation and the use of ingredients.”
Wing Yip director Brian Yip, who oversaw the competition, added: “Since 2013, the competition has been championing some amazing young chefs from all over the country, with and without backgrounds in Oriental cuisine, and the latest cook-off was no exception.
“Aaron is thoroughly deserving of the title. His dishes were delivered to an exceptional standard, and his creativity was remarkable.”
“We hope he enjoys this once-in-a-lifetime experience in Hong Kong and that it helps him further develop as a chef.”
Aaron, Rhys and Elyse faced tough competition from 13 other finalists from trade and colleges, including; (in alphabetical order)Ted Adams, The Inn at Shipley, Wolverhampton; Krzysztof Borowiak, Yu Alderley Edge Restaurant, Cheshire; Kelly-Ann Brogan, Lyit School of Tourism; Lucy Cartwright, Bournville College; Craig Foulger, Bradford College; Joel Mills, Westminster Kingsway College; Ryan O’Connor, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst; Peter Price, University College Birmingham; Ryan Sharpe, University College Birmingham; Andrew Stevenson, Clare College Cambridge; Tom Wise, Saunton Sands Hotel, North Devon; Joe Ryan Wykes, North Warwickshire & Hinckley College; Jinsun Yoon, Westminster Kingsway College.
Pictured above (left to right) Rhys McCausland, House of Commons; Wing Yip, who founded the eponymous wholesaler in 1970); Aaron McLaughlin, Lincolns Inn; Elyse Baxter, House of Commons.