Louise Harbottle
Louise Harbottle, Executive Chef at Rockliffe Hall created the winning main course dish in the Great North Menu Challenge 2018.
Fusion PR

Talented chefs from Rockliffe Hall and Jesmond Dene House win the Great North Menu competition

Two talented chefs from hotels in Newcastle and County Durham have battled against some of the finest rising stars in the North East to be crowned the winners of the Great North Menu Challenge 2018.

Louise Harbottle from Rockliffe Hall in Darlington, County Durham, wowed the judges to win the main course category with her Roast Lamb, Lamb Shoulder Croquette, Rosemary Gnocchi and Broccoli Puree.

Manuel Prado, representing Jesmond Dene House in Newcastle, won both the starter and dessert categories. The young Venezuelan, who only started cooking professionally two years ago, impressed the judges with his Caramelised Red Onion and Yellison Goats Cheese Tart starter and a Rhubarb, Apricot and White Chocolate Pave pudding.

The annual competition is organised by the North East Hotels Association (NEHA), the membership body which represents hoteliers across the region. It is run in partnership with Newcastle College and sponsored by the renowned North East specialist catering equipment supplier, Crosbys.

Louise and Manuel competed against 11 finalists from hotels across the region to win the 2018 Great North Menu Challenge, taking part in an intense cook-off at Newcastle College’s Chef’s Academy.

Their individual dishes were judged by industry experts including former North East Chef of the Year David Kennedy, Ben Crosby, director of Crosbys and Phil Pringle, lecturer and course leader in food and hospitality at Newcastle College.

Lead judge, David Kennedy said: “It’s great to see a new generation of chefs in action. I was impressed with the standard of the entries and the level of professionalism and creativity on display.

“The competition challenged all the finalists to demonstrate skill and execution with their dishes which can be testing in an unfamiliar environment. It’s also been good to see how they operate under pressure and their approach to designing dishes which both look and taste good. Manuel and Louise met the brief and are worthy winners, the standard of cooking was excellent.”

The winning dishes will be prepared for hundreds of high-profile guests and industry leaders at the North East Hotels Association Excellence Awards evening at the Newcastle Marriott Hotel Gosforth Park on 10 May.

Describing her win, Louise Harbottle, who has worked at Rockliffe Hall for 8 years, said: “I spent just over a week designing the dish and I’m absolutely thrilled it went according to plan. It will be an honour to have my entry showcased at the Excellence Awards next month. Taking part in the challenge was nerve wracking at times but it was also a great learning experience.”

Starter and dessert winner Manuel Prado said: “Two years ago I gave up a career in engineering to follow my passion for food and hospitality. I’ve never entered a catering competition before and I was up against some really talented chefs, so to have the judges select two of my dishes has been a dream come true!”

Each of the 13 chefs taking part in the competition were presented with a professional chef’s knife from Crosbys for reaching the final.

The Great North Menu Challenge was first launched in 2012 to run in partnership with the North East Hotels Association Excellence Awards. The prestigious competition celebrates the cooking skills of chefs working in the kitchens of the region’s best-known hotels.

Adam Green, General Manager at the Hotel du Vin in Newcastle, is the NEHA coordinator for the Great North Menu Challenge, he said: “The aim of the competition is to showcase the emerging talent we have in hotel kitchens across the region. We want to encourage their development and celebrate their progress.

“It was an exciting and tough contest this year, the dishes were of a very high calibre and the judges had a good degree of deliberation before selecting the winners. I’d like to congratulate everyone involved, especially our winners and finalists, who represent some of the best chef talent in the North East today.”

The North East Hotels Association was first established in 1992 to represent and promote the region’s hotel and hospitality industry around the UK. It is now believed to be the biggest of its kind in England, representing 50 of the region’s best-known hotels including internationally and nationally recognised chains and leading independent hotels.

The Association launched the Excellence Awards in 2010 to recognise and celebrate the brightest and best hospitality service providers in the North East of England. The awards are now an annual highlight for hotels across the region, attracting over 400 industry professionals and guests.

The award categories include: Warmest Welcome, Support Services, Service Excellence, Cleanliness Excellence, Health and Wellness Excellence, Sales Excellence, Community Award, Rising Star, Inspirational Leader and Best Newcomer.

Association members have a significant impact on the regional economy, employing more than 3,400 people and spending £70 million purchasing products and services through its supply chain. It is estimated that the overall contribution of the NEHA to the North East economy and GDP of the region is £616 million.

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