Wexford chef is shortlisted for national award
A young chef from Co Wexford has been shortlisted for a national culinary award which recognises those who excel within the Irish hospitality industry.
Lar Whelan (22), from Bannow, works as a sous chef in Mary Barry's bar and seafood restaurant in Kilmore village.
While his inherent talent is obvious to anyone who has visited the restaurant and tasted his food, being shortlisted for the Best Young Chef in Ireland for this year's YesChef Magazine annual awards is an endorsement of what his clientele already know - that he is a chef of immense ability.
The Best Young Chef in Ireland accolade is a much sought after title and is awarded annually by the magazine.
Even getting to the final stages of the competition is an achievement as all of the finalist chefs had to progress through a public voting system before being challenged to develop a four-course menu along with paired beverages.
Those who qualified past the public voting stage had to cook and present their creations to visiting judges from the acclaimed magazine.
For his entry Mr Whelan chose to make fresh Wexford fish the focus of his menu and the high standard of the competition meant he had to cook with flair on the night the judges arrived.
It was a case of showcasing his skill and creativity while at the same time paying special attention to achieving a balance of flavours. He also had to ensure that the food was exceptionally presented.
Speaking about his career to-date and his love of cooking Mr Whelan said that becoming a chef was, for him, something of a vocation in life.
'It is one of the few industries where you can't 'fake it, 'till you make it',' he said.
'You have to have passion and also commit to building strong practical foundations through experience and mentoring.' he added.
Mr Whelan was quick to acknowledge the advice and guidance he has received from his Head Chef, Nicky Cullen.
By nature, Mr Whelan is very easy-going in nature however, when he's in the kitchen he really comes into his own.
'Working in the kitchen is not like work at all,' he said.
'That's especially true when you have a great team around you,' he added.
He also highlighted the fact he loves his job: 'It's a fun place to be and I'm doing what I love; experimenting with food every day.'
Having a lifelong passion for food is definitely an advantage but he is also known for his brilliant organisational skills and that's something he uses to great effect in the kitchen.
Mr Whelan said belief in ones ability is the key to success in any job: 'Dedication and belief is essential for happiness and success.'
He also said it's important to have a focus on what you want to achieve in life and what career path you want to take.
'First, you have to know where you want go in life and when you are clear on that you are bound to get there,' he said.
'You should never doubt yourself or your abilities and always follow your instincts,' he added.
His comments came from experience as he recalled an occasion that inspired him when he was younger.
'I was once told that I would never make a chef but I knew my own ability and where my passion lay,' he said.
'That comment was never going to break me; it was belief in myself that kept me focused and positive,' he added.
The category winners in this year's YesChef Awards will take place in Sligo this coming Tuesday, October 9, and if Mr Whelan does emerge victorious it will be another step on an upward spiralling career path that he was always destined to follow.