Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

People with a Passion for Food

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

People with a Passion for Food

Article excerpt

Byline: By Hannah Davies

Hannah Davies finds out why North chef Terry Laybourne has given his backing to a regional cooking competition.

Not many people know this, but the region's top chef actually wanted to be a mechanical engineer.

It was the strikes and closures endemic in the 1970s which led to a career rethink for the young Terry Laybourne.

"I'd decided I wanted to be an engineer," he explains, "but they were bad times for Tyneside heavy industry. There were three-day weeks coming in and strikes all the time ( so it looked like it might be wiser if I went into something else instead. I had a friend who was a chef and he showed me some of his books, which I found very interesting.

"I'd always been good with my hands ( that was something I excelled at in school. Cooking was a very hands-on profession so it appealed to me. I decided instead of being an industry engineer I'd be a food engineer."

In his new role as spokesman for the North East Culinary Trade Association (NECTA) Newcastle-born Terry, 50, is hoping to inspire a new generation of food masters. This year NECTA has re-vamped its annual inter-college competition and added an extra dimension with the introduction of the North-East Chef of the Year ( which will also feature professional contestants from those within the industry.

The two-day Promoting Culinary Excellence event is taking place on May 17-18 at Gateshead Leisure Centre and is open to the public in addition to students and their families.

Categories include Original Starter, Main Course and Dessert in addition to the Chef of the Year 2006.

"This competition is about creating links between the young chefs and those working in the industry," Terry explains. "It's also a chance for them to show off for those of us in the trade. It's very good for talent spotting.

"To get a qualification at college you need to pass certain things which perhaps don't have full relevance to working in an actual restaurant. This event will be a great opportunity to build-up more links between the colleges and the profession."

Beginning his own training at Newcastle College, Terry is committed to building up a skilled workforce of North-East trained chefs in addition to front-of-house staff.

"Obviously the culinary culture of the North-East has improved, but the higher end of the market hasn't yet caught up with the boom in cheap restaurants.

"What we do have at the moment is talented people being trained in the region and then leaving to go and work in London and abroad. But some are returning, which is good.

"There's still a way to go before the North-East can compete with other areas of the country.

"I'd love to see people here becoming more passionate about food. I think it has to be learnt anew though. The time in this country when people had to be most creative in their cooking was during World War Two. …

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