Athlone IT student crowned Ireland’s Top Student Chef 2011

Daniel Skukalek of AIT has been crowned the 2011 Knorr Student Chef of the Year at the competition’s final held in Limerick Institute of Technology. Now in its 14th year, the competition recognises outstanding talent from around Ireland’s catering colleges. Previous winners have gone on to work in some of Ireland and Europe’s top restaurants.

The second year culinary arts student has also won an all-expenses paid trip to Noma in Copenhagen, recently voted the best restaurant in the world. Originally from Slovakia, Daniel now lives in Longford and works at Viewmount House in the town. Prior to this he worked at the Hodson Bay Hotel and attended a hotel academy in Slovakia.

Established by Unilever Food Solutions in 1996, the Knorr Student Chef of the Year Competition is the biggest competition of its kind in Ireland and has become a respected and keenly fought contest in the Irish culinary world. The competition has put many former winners on the path to professional success and aims to discover the most talented and creative chefs coming through the ranks of Ireland’s catering colleges.

Announcing the winner of this year’s competition, Mark McCarthy, business development chef at Unilever Food Solutions said, “The standard of food has improved hugely in Ireland over the last ten years. It’s clear from today’s final that the level of improvement will continue. We’re delighted with the calibre of chefs today. They have all showed great creativity, confidence, and ability in their cooking. It was one of the hardest years for judging but Daniel’s menu was superbly finished and presented.”

AIT’s head of department of hospitality, tourism and leisure studies, John O’Hara, congratulated Daniel on his achievement. “Daniel is a culinarian of exceptional promise and we are delighted that his talent and hard work have been recognised in this way. It is also a credit to the culinary lecturing staff at AIT that they encourage our student chefs’ talent and bring out the best in each one.”

The theme of this year’s contest was international culinary classics and dishes ranged from the classic fish, chips, and peas and elegant fry-up to blue lobster served on hot watermelon, fennel and apple with tomato pesto, and loin of venison with smoked fondant potatoes, savoy cabbage, pearl onions, a game jus, and a wild berry purée.

In the final cook-off, Daniel prepared oriental prawn bisque for starter and served up a main course of roast saddle of rabbit with risotto and a red wine jus, delivering a menu that combined creativity, excellent presentation, and taste to win over the judges.


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