A North West Regional College student chef is set to cook up a storm in Dublin next week, at the finals of the Knorr Professional Student Chef of the Year competition 2020. Cathal McDermott, who studies at Limavady Campus, will go head to head against eight of Ireland’s most talented culinary students at TU Dublin – Tallaght.The theme for this year’s competition is ‘2020 The Future of Foods.’ Cathal and the other eight students have been challenged to create two dishes taking inspiration from global challenges of sustainability, and driving positive change. The father of one, who currently works at the Michelin Guide Acclaimed restaurant, ‘The Lime Tree in Limavady,’ says he is looking forward to the competition next week, and representing the college. Cathal (48), came to NWRC last year to study the part-time Level 2 in Professional Cookery, and loved the course so much, he quit his full time job as a senior estimator and enrolled on the full time Level 3 course. He explained: “Last year I came into the college on a Tuesday, I liked it so much I used to say that Tuesdays were my new Fridays. “I knew that my future career lay in food. I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my working life looking at a screen. “I spoke to my wife Mary K and with her support I decided to go for it full time. A few weeks after I left my job, the job in the Lime Tree restaurant came up. I couldn’t believe it, it was exactly what I was looking for.“I applied, and found out from the Senior Chef (Stanley) that I had been accepted, so since then I’ve been working at the Lime Tree part time and studying full time. “I have a much better work/life balance now. I love the fact that I can take my son Fergal to school in the mornings, I’m less stressed and I’m sleeping a lot better.” Hailing from Banagher, Cathal says his passion for food comes from his mother and grandmother who themselves were both cooks at the local primary school in Fincarn. He revealed: “I’ve always enjoyed cooking and do a lot of the cooking at home, to do this as a career now is fantastic. “Coming back to school at this stage of life isn’t easy, but I’ve settled in well, we have a great group in the class, and I’ve gained a new social circle, as well as a whole new What's App group. “I’d like to thank the staff at NWRC for their help and support especially Aaron, Barbara and Douglas, plus of course Stanley and Maria at the Lime Tree who have also been a great help and support to me on my journey into the hospitality business. This will be my first competition and I’m looking forward to it.” Douglas Walker, Lecturer in Hospitality and Catering at NWRC said: “On behalf of everyone at the college I would like to wish Cathal the very best at the Knorr Professional Student Chef of the Year 2020. “Cathal has proved himself to be a keen and enthusiastic student who has a good future ahead of him. He regularly puts in extra hours at the kitchen at the college to perfect his work, showing his level of commitment and work ethic.” Audrey Crone, Executive Chef Ireland, Unilever Food Solutions, and one of the judges said: “It’s a great honour to represent your college in a competition at this level and it’s truly inspiring to see students eager and excited for the cook-off. “Competitions like Knorr® Professional Student of the Year are really important for students’ progression and exposure for their future careers. It allows them to meet and engage with their peers from different institutions across Ireland on the same level as them. It gives an opportunity to showcase their talents and creativity in a pretty high-pressure environment. We’re really looking forward to what is shaping up to be a fantastic day with the best of Ireland’s next generation chefs.”
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