Minister of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots; NI Chef of the Year, Lauma Jurkjane and Sean Owens, Salon Culinaire Director at IFEX.

Lauma Jurkjane who is sous chef at Kilronan Castle Hotel has been named the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Northern Ireland Chef of the Year at IFEX.

DAERA NI Chef of the Year is one of the highlights of Salon Culinaire competition and Lauma impressed the judges with her creative flair and inspirational use of ingredients throughout the course of the competition’s challenges.

Lauma competed against three other culinarians to win the top ChefSkills accolade at IFEX – NI’s largest food, drink, retail and hospitality exhibition - which took place at the Titanic Exhibition Centre from Tuesday 29th – Thursday 31st March.

Thrilled with winning the top accolade, Lauma Jurkjane comments: “IFEX is synonymous as the event where NI’s top chefs first won their medals and to be crowned DAERA Northern Ireland Chef of the Year is incredible.

“It is a huge honour to win and to now be included in the hall of fame alongside such industry heavyweights is a dream come true. I was up against some tremendous talent, which makes this victory even more special.”

On presenting Lauma with her award, Minister of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Edwin Poots, added:

‘’The DAERA Chef of the Year competition highlights the strong links between our farming industry, the culinary environment and our successful agri-food supply chains.

“Chefs here are incredibly fortunate to have such a rich pool of Northern Ireland award-winning producers and artisan food and drink companies on their doorstep. It’s a testament to our agri-food industry that Northern Ireland’s international reputation is continuing to grow.

I would like to congratulate each of the finalists for their creative and talented use of our local products and I wish each of them well in their culinary careers.”

For many years, IFEX has been pivotal in nurturing some of the best culinary talent that Northern Ireland has to offer and Salon Culinaire at IFEX this year was no exception.  Supported by Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Stephen’s Catering Equipment, Flogas and Budget Energy, over 250 student and industry chefs took part in 30 category competitions.

The competition was judged by some of the industry’s most respected chefs and was adjudicated by Gary Gamble, IFEX Chairman of the Judges.