One of Northamptonshire’s rising culinary talents has enjoyed the foodie experience of a lifetime after being named ‘Booker Young Chef of the Year’ in the Carlsberg UK Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards 2016/17, writes Anna Murby.
Sebastian McLean, 25, from Northampton, spent two days in London feeling the heat of the kitchen in two of the city’s most exciting eateries, Lyles and Dabbous, having won the title prize generously provided by category sponsor Booker Wholesale.
Lyles, led by chef James Lowe, opened in 2014 and was immediately voted the ‘One to Watch’ at the 2014 Restaurant Magazine Awards, achieving a Michelin star the following year, while Dabbous, opened by Ollie Dabbous two years earlier, was named ‘a game-changer’ by Fay Maschler, restaurant critic of London’s Evening Standard.
Sebastian, who now works at Rushton Hall, spent two years living in Africa where he honed his passion for hospitality and catering as a Hotel and Lodge Manager in Malawi, before returning to his home town to complete his professional chef’s diploma at Northampton College. It was at the college that Sebastian sailed through the semi-final cook-off to secure his place in the final at Corby’s Tresham College in September. He beat off competition from four others, impressing the judges with his calmness under pressure as he prepared his main course of Asian-style tofu followed by chocolate mousse.
Sebastian said he was thrilled to have received his trophy from none other than Michel Roux Snr OBE at the prestigious Awards Dinner held in November, before enjoying two days shadowing top chefs in London.
Now other Northants-based chefs are being encouraged to enter this year’s competition, with chances to win prizes like Sebastian.
“The long hours make this industry tough to work in at the start, but watching such talented chefs as Ollie and James in action has really inspired me to be as good as I can be and shown me that, with effort, you can make it to the top” he explained.
“Indeed, apart from looking great on my CV, the whole process of the awards was great fun, while the challenge of doing something competitive like this was also exciting, so I’d urge the county’s chefs to make sure they don’t miss such a great opportunity.”
With the ninth year of the competition now underway, Awards Director Rachel Mallows is encouraging others to consider getting involved; “We are most grateful to Booker for providing Sebastian with such a wonderful prize and clearly, that experience that will live long in his memory” said Rachel.
“As well as the increase in publicity which success in the competition can bring, we are also confident in securing a similar exciting opportunity for this year’s winner, so would heartily recommended that the county’s chefs make sure get their entry form in before the deadline!”
As well as great opportunities for young chefs, the ‘Chef of the Year’ category (sponsored by Dawn Farms and Cordant People), is aimed at chefs aged 25 and above. The winner has the chance to spend the day with John Williams MBE, Executive Chef at The Ritz. The closing date for both categories is 19th June.
For more details, including to download the entry forms for those and all the categories in the Carlsberg UK Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards 2017/18, visit the Awards’ website –
You can also recommend your favourites in several award categories, including pub, restaurant, spice restaurant, Healthy Eating Workplace, Independent Café /Tea Room or ‘Weetabix Local Food Hero’, by contacting Rachel Mallows on 01933 664437 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow the Awards on twitter at @foodawardsHQ or on Facebook at facebook.com/foodawards.