A talented North East chef has just been named Young Pastry Chef of the Year.
Megan Armstrong, 26, who works for Newcastle-based 21 Hospitality Group, achieved the highest marks in the UK in the pastry final of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Annual Awards of Excellence 2023 held in London recently.
She was presented with this award at a special gala dinner held at Claridge’s in London where she was accompanied by Nick Shottel, director of hospitality at 21HG along with mentor and renowned chef and restaurateur Terry Laybourne, the owner of the Newcastle-based group.
As well as the kudos that goes with this national accolade, Megan receives a bursary from the Savoy Educational Trust that includes a visit to Moet et Chandon in the Champagne region of France and £2,000, along with an engraved trophy, a chef’s jacket and membership of the AAE Alumni.
Megan, who originally comes from Cumbria, said: “This is such a prestigious award in the industry and means a lot. It’s a great accolade and I’m now looking forward to my educational trip to Champagne.”
Megan is one of a long line of 21HG employees – from the kitchens and front of house, who’ve achieved an Award of Excellence over the years. Group pastry chef Helen Doyle, herself an AAE alumni, has been instrumental in developing something of a production line of talent. Past achiever, Sophie Bamford, mentored by Helen, was awarded Young Pastry Chef in 2018. Martin Malinowski, head chef at St Vincent who was awarded best Young Chef several years ago.
Nick Shottel, a fellow of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts and who takes responsibility for staff development across 21HG, has coached around five front of house achievers over the years. This latest award not only recognises the individual talents of Megan but is recognition of the efforts the group makes in training and staff retention.
Nick said: “Megan’s achievement is hugely impressive and fully deserved. She beat off strong national competition. It’s also a testimony to the strength of the training programme and staff development we have in place across our restaurants. We aim to encourage people to build their skills and develop their careers with us.
“Megan has been with us for five years. She’s been developing and learning all the time and this award of excellence is a culmination of her dedication and the support she’s had within the organisation. She has a big future ahead of her.”