Abigail Smith, NEYCoY

Abigail Smith crowned North East Young Chef of the Year

One to watch

Abigail Smith has enjoyed a whirlwind couple of months – being crowned North East Young Chef of the Year and securing a job with James Close.

Abigail, a commis chef at Rockliffe Hall, wowed the judges at this year’s young chef competition in the North East Culinary and Trade Awards at Crowne Plaza Newcastle, which were organised by Food and Drink North East.

As a result of her win, Abigail has earned a spot in the semi-final of the national Young Chef of the Year, organised by the Craft Guild of Chefs.

“It was a little bit intimidating. I was up against older chefs, and I was both the youngest and only girl in the competition,” said Abigail. “Everything went fairly smoothly during the morning competition. The only issues were my equipment, which kept breaking on me, but somehow I got on with it. When the result was announced I got a bit emotional – relief as much as anything.”

The 18-year-old New College Durham student also impressed James, the former chef-patron at the two Michelin-starred Raby Hunt, who offered her a job and promotion to chef de partie at his summer residency TERRA.

Hairy Bikers star Si King, who was one of the judges, said: “I loved being part of a great event. The standard was high, and the brief was locally sourced produce where possible. All the participant chefs and their teams did just that. There was some exceptional talent on show at the NECTA competition, but Abigail shone out with her confidence, understanding of the task and her expertise in food preparation and cooking. We’ve got it all in the North East and I’m very proud of that. We’ve just got to let the rest of the country know.”

Chris Jewitt, CEO of FADNE, added: “The NECTA annual competition is becoming a key diary date for all young and aspiring chefs across our region. Many past winners of the accolade have gone on to build and develop fantastic careers in the food and hospitality sector and there is little doubt that Abigail will do the same and be a star of the future. Each year the competition is becoming a bigger affair with senior chefs and restaurateurs keen to encourage and promote the enormous talent in kitchens around our region.”

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