He’s been crowned North East Chef of the Year in a prestigious competition – and Ronald Robson says he’s ecstatic about it.
“I was really surprised when I won. The calibre of chefs was great, there was so much fantastic talent, and the environment was amazing under competition conditions,” says Ronald, who’s worked at top venues across the region and is set to become head chef at new Newcastle venue, Leila Lily’s.
The competition, which has been running for 15 years, is organised by Douglas Jordan – owner of North East Culinary and Trade Association (NECTA).
Seven chefs battled it out in a cook off held at the Hilton Hotel Newcastle Gateshead, which saw them whipping up a three-course meal. Rules included using plaice in the first course, beef in the second course and for the third course, chefs were tasked with cooking a dish featuring pears.
“It was such a long day, I started at 3am. Cooking is what we all do every day, yet that situation was so different.
“I had my menu in place for months, my game plan in my head for months, and I went to such lengths to make sure everything was well thought out and planned meticulously.
“I had bespoke crockery from Muddy Fingers Pottery in Jarrow, my beer-fed Dexter beef was dry aged in koji at my good friend, and great chef, Tony Renwick’s amazing restaurant Trakol.
“I got the biggest, most beautiful plaice I’ve seen from friend and supplier Darren Worton at Taylor’s Seafood.
“I definitely felt the pressure, so when my name was called out as this year’s winner I was blown away – I still am.”
Ronald, who has been cooking since he left school at the age of 16, added: “For Years I have looked up to and admired so many of the North East’s great chefs so to be crowned winner is huge to me. I feel like I have achieved something amazing and finally been recognised for something I have pushed so long and hard for.”
Now his eyes are firmly focused on Leila Lily’s – a new venue set to open in Grey Street, Newcastle later this summer.
“I’m now working on the menus and we’ll be bringing modern British food to a casual and fun dining concept. It’s going to be a very exciting project with so many talented people involved. I cannot wait to open the doors.”
Lee Bennett, from The Forge, Washington achieved second place while Kyle Greenwood, from Peace and Loaf, scooped third place.
Organiser Douglas said: “It was a great event with an exceptional standard of chefs – there was some wonderful food. Ronald is a fantastic winner and a smashing bloke.
“It was extremely competitive, and all the chefs produced innovative dishes.
“The North East Chef of the Year event really does showcase the quality of talent we have in the region.”