Young chef Mark Moriarty and celeriac dishes win over San Pellegrino judges

23 year old named San Pellegrino best young chef in the UK and Ireland

Mark Moriarty prepares a dish under the watchful Stephen Gibson (Pichet), Neil McFadden and Marc Amand (La Rousse Foods) back in 2012. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Mark Moriarty prepares a dish under the watchful Stephen Gibson (Pichet), Neil McFadden and Marc Amand (La Rousse Foods) back in 2012. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Mark Moriarty’s home economics teacher, Brian Dooley, told him he should start at the top if he wanted to be a chef. “So I drafted a letter with my mother, which is a very Irish thing to do, and sent it to what I considered at the time to be the top 10 restaurants.”

The letter opened the kitchen doors for the then 15-year-old transition-year student from Blackrock in Dublin into two-week work stints in three of those restaurants: with Kevin Thornton, Derry Clarke and Neven Maguire. “I was really well looked after and that inspired me even further.”

This week the 23-year-old won San Pellegrino best young chef in the UK and Ireland at a competition in London. In June, he’ll compete for the world title in Milan against 19 other young chefs.

On Tuesday night, in Harrods Georgian Restaurant, he turned a knobbly root vegetable into a star. His celeriac dish included a sauce of raw celeriac juice boiled down and turned into a cream with butter and lemon juice and topped with hazelnuts.

Celeriac and life

A piece of celeriac was roasted like a joint of meat and blow-torched with an “Irish miso” pearl barley fermented for seven months. A “celeriac salt” was grated over the plate made from a piece of celeriac brined and then dehydrated for three weeks so that it looked like a truffle. “Celeriac is clearly a big part of your life,” the MC for the night joked.

Judge Clare Smyth from Restaurant Gordon Ramsay took a deep sniff of the dish before tasting it. In a final flourish, hay-smoked tea was served in Moriarty’s grandmother’s teacup, a wedding present from 1956, he told the judges.

Judge Atul Kochhar had said he was looking for a dish in which vegetables were the star and meat was a garnish.

Oliver Dunne from Malahide’s Bon Appetit wanted to see something he hadn’t seen before. The fourth judge, Dan Doherty, predicted the winner would be “the guy who’s right on the edge”.

Several hours and nine dishes from nine other contestants later, Moriarty took the trophy.

Young chef Mark Moriarty and celeriac dishes win over San Pellegrino judges

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