Region’s best

Lawrence Norman crowned 2024 North East Chef of the Year

Lawrence Norman, chef de partie at The Broad Chare, was crowned 2024 North East Chef of the Year at the annual HITS Expo in Newcastle.

Lawrence beat competitors from across the region at the event, where six chefs cooked their three-course menus showcasing green gastronomy for a panel of expert judges.

The annual competition, which has been won by some of the region’s most celebrated chefs, was sponsored by Crosbys Catering Supplies, and this year saw chefs demonstrate knowledge of key sustainability themes such as food miles, food waste, climate protection and ethical ingredient sourcing as well as showcasing seasonal local produce.

Following his victory, we asked Lawrence about winning the title and what went into his dishes…

What is it like to be the North East Chef of the Year?
It has been such an amazing experience. Not only did the event put my skills to the test, it allowed me to meet new people, forge connections in the industry, and establish my name as a chef. It has opened so many doors for me already and will greatly advance my career. The competition was very tough, with the other chefs creating some outstanding dishes. I invested so much effort and time into preparing – spending hours developing my dishes, sourcing the best ingredients and practising under time constraints. Despite encountering some hiccups on the day, my main goal was to plate up delicious food without overcomplicating things, letting the quality ingredients and good preparation skills speak for themselves.

Tell us about your winning dishes…
Working within the green gastronomy brief, I looked at everything from avoiding the use of plastics to sourcing British-made wines for my sauces. With just 2 hours and 45 minutes, I focused on ensuring my dishes covered all flavour profiles and were well-balanced.

For the starter, I prepared a ceviche using Red Gurnard from Phil’s Plaice in North Shields. The fish cures beautifully and instead of using lemons, I used British cider vinegar infused with lemon balm to maintain the flavour without racking up the air miles. I created a smooth, glossy and vibrant accompaniment using British sunflower seeds, cold-pressed rapeseed oil and sourdough made with flour from regenerative farming specialists Wildfarmed. Blending sorrel through it added a citric peppery note and a vibrant shade of green. Palourde clams, cooked in British wine from Tillingham in East Sussex, were soaked in a sweet pickle, and the cooking liquor was incorporated into the sauce to minimise waste and add depth. Crispy sourdough starter, wild garlic oil, sea purslane and garden herbs rounded off the dish.

For the main course, I focused on the often-underappreciated hogget. More mature than lamb, the meat has a more complex flavour profile and better fat content. Sourced from Jewitt’s in Durham through my friends at Block & Bottle in Heaton, I selected the saddle of the animal, ensuring I had ample trim and bones to craft a jus while minimising waste. To complement the richness of the meat, I chose St George’s mushrooms fried in rendered hogget fat. Accompanying the hogget was Ragstone goat cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy, renowned for its rich flavour profile yet surprising lightness on the palate. Transforming the cheese into a creamy sauce using an Espuma gun introduced a delightful umami element. To add sweetness and earthiness, I incorporated baby beets, roasted until their flavours intensified, and a beetroot purée cut with a gastrique to balance the acidity. The dish was rounded off with a touch of spice from sautéed rainbow chard sourced from Hexhamshire Organics and cooked with a pinch of chilli.

For the dessert, I chose to celebrate the vibrant flavours of rhubarb. Poaching some rhubarb in a delicate syrup with Northumberland honey offered a sweetness that counterbalanced the tartness of the fruit. Macerating another portion in a wine reduction, made using Athingmill from Tillingham, added depth. These contrasting treatments were paired with a crème pâtissière, where the infusion of Woodruff into Acorn Dairy milk elevated the dish with aromas of vanilla and aniseed. The dessert was finished with a tuille made with buckwheat flour and infused with the richness of salted brown butter and a touch of cardamom.

What’s next?
I’ve taken some time away from work and I’m travelling across South East Asia. I’m absorbing as much as I can, being a sponge for knowledge and information, and indulging in the local cuisines to understand why the food from this part of the world is so well-loved. When I return, I’ll dive straight back into work – I’ll be eager to get back into the kitchen after such a long break. Ultimately, I want to open my own establishment and showcase everything I’ve learned.

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