THE Executive Head Chef from Sodexo at Bushmills Distillery has won the Northern Ireland Year of Food Award at this year’s IFEX exhibition.
Darran Benham from Coleraine scooped the coveted title after impressing the judges with his Bushmills Whiskey inspired dish, focusing on the 10 year-old single malt and it’s apple, vanilla, milk chocolate, pearl barley and honey flavours. Sourcing local ingredients, Darran competed against five other culinarians.
Thrilled with the ‘Best in Class’ award, Darran commented: “Salon Culinaire at IFEX is Ireland’s largest and most prestigious chef competition.
“This year’s event was about promoting Northern Ireland produce and so I decided to highlight my work with the Distillery which is a fantastic tourist attraction. I wanted to create a menu which used local produce and focused on the single malt and it’s amazing flavours.
“This is triple distilled and matured in bourbon season barrels which give it its honey, vanilla and milk chocolate aroma. I got the venison loin from Kane Family Butchers in Bushmills, I used Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil from Limavady and quail eggs from Coleraine.”
Darran was a member of a team that scoooped silver in the recent Food and Beverage awards in Dublin. “Winning in Dublin was great however it only made me more determined to go for gold at IFEX.
“The competition was tough as I had to provide two identical plates within 40 minutes. It was like Master Chef but on a smaller scale.
“My plates were complex but I managed to plate up with 30 seconds to go. It was quite stressful but fantastic. Winning the title has provided me with many opportunities now, however my ultimate goal is to open a cookery school on the North Coast and let others see what we have to offer.”