The annual NECTA North East Chef of the Year competition took place at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Newcastle on Thursday 4th May 2023, where five professional chefs battled it out for a chance to be declared the 2023 winner.
Each chef was asked to cook a signature three-course menu that showcased North East produce and demonstrated a knowledge of local supply chains.
The standard of the competition was extremely high, with the five chefs cooking up a storm, but only one could walk away with the crown and the 2023 winner was announced as Kyle Bowman, development chef at Newcastle United. He wowed the judges on the day with his three-course menu of a North Shields crab starter, goat loin main, and his twist on a classic apple crumble using an array of local produce.
Kyle currently looks after the fine-dining operation for match day at Newcastle United, and has also worked in Guernsey, Cumbria and Newcastle in various establishments from Michelin-star and 3-rosette restaurants to pubs and hotels.
Originally from North Shields, Kyle started his career as a young teenager working weekends at The Grand Hotel in Tynemouth, so his crab starter paid homage to his roots and the North Shields Fish Quay. “I used the whole crab – brown and white meat – as a big part of my ethos as a chef is using all the product, but keeping true to the flavour and not over complicating it,” says Kyle.
“For the main course I used goat loin from The Goat Company farm,” explains Kyle. “I use goat a lot in my cooking, and I feel it isn’t used enough, so I wanted to showcase how good it is, and also by using the goat’s curd from the same farm I’m emphasising again on using as much of the product as possible and not to waste it. I chose Northumbrian potatoes as a garnish as they are some of the best potatoes in the country.”
“The dessert was a take on my dad’s apple crumble,” says Kyle. “Growing up, it was a dish we would have most Sundays, and I made mine using apples from Six Nine Orchard in Prudhoe, with wild red clover petals, white chocolate and an incredible wildflower honey from Northumberland Honey Company. The combination of flavours is a classic, but I have put my own twist and interpretation on the dish to show off my style of cooking and focus on getting the best flavour out of the region’s quality produce.”
Despite running out of time when attempting his practice runs before the competition, on the day everything came together for Kyle. “I managed to finish with 30 minutes to spare! The competition was tough, but I focused on my food and execution. I was extremely happy and overwhelmed when I heard that I had won the competition, and also to have my name next to some unbelievable chefs that have won the trophy before me is something that I’m extremely proud of.
I also have to thank my commis, Lawrence, on the day for his hard work in helping to keep my area clean and tidy, and for putting up with my demanding nature on the day!”
The NECTA annual event, which also included inter-college skills competitions, a cook-off from chefs across the Inn Collection Group for a Young Chef of the Year and 21 Hospitality’s Future Chef awards, took place as part of the HITS Expo at the Crowne Plaza in Newcastle – a two-day experience that highlighted excellence within hospitality, innovation, tourism, and supply from across the North of Tyne and beyond that was organised by Food and Drink North East (FADNE) in partnership with NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI) and NBSL, and funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority.
Ian McAndrew, Chair of Judges, said:
“Once again I was privileged to judge the North East Chef of the Year competition, something I have been doing almost every year since it started. We went through a period where the quality of the competition seemed to drop off slightly, but this year, however, the standard was extremely good and definitely bodes well for the future. Indeed, the standard across the two days in all competitions was much improved with some great entries and competitors in the students’ classes on the first day.
This year’s Chef of the Year Winner, Kyle Bowman, presented us with three magnificent dishes using local produce from North Shields Crab to Morpeth Goat and Northumbrian Honey. Kyle piqued our interest from the outset by choosing a loin of goat for his main course, not a meat one sees very often so we were really looking forward to trying it, and it did not disappoint. Well done Kyle and to all that entered, I hope to see all the contestants again next year, the title is there to be won again in 12 months time.”
George McIvor, Chairman of the Master Chefs of Great Britain, said:
“For me, as Chairman of the Master Chefs of Great Britain, NECTA 2023 was a breath of fresh air to the North East culinary scene. We had a really uplifting two days with our live cookery competitions, the perfect starting block for young students and restaurant chefs alike. The food scene’s future looks very bright in the North East with so many enthusiastic passionate young people on show. Roll on NECTA 2024.”
Chris Jewitt, NECTA Chair, and founder and CEO of Food and Drink North East, said:
“We’re absolutely delighted for Kyle Bowman – a well deserved winner. Celebrating and showcasing the very best of North East produce, and demonstrating a strong knowledge of local, short supply chain, was a key part of the brief we set this year for the North East Chef of the Year competition, and Kyle nailed it with his original three-course menu that not only used local ingredients but also told a story of why those ingredients were selected. As well as the importance to our region’s culinary heritage and tradition, making these links between local food and drink supply chain and the hospitality industry are critical in building a more resilient sector”.