Young Northampton chef grateful to food awards

One of the county's rising culinary talents has set up her own blossoming catering company all thanks to the Carlsberg UK Northamptonshire Food & Drink Awards

Victoria with Isaac McHale
Victoria with Isaac McHale

Victoria Austin from Northampton, who only secured her Catering Diploma from Northampton College in 2016, was just 20 when she beat off the challenge of four other finalists at last summer’s cook-off to take the title of ‘Booker Young Chef of the Year’ and says it was the confidence boost she needed to take the culinary plunge:

I always knew I wanted to be a private caterer but I’d often find myself saying ‘I’ll do it in a few years’ or ‘not just yet’” explained Victoria.

“But winning the competition, which came as a complete shock, made me realise I was talented and gave me the courage and determination to achieve that ambition and so ‘Homemade By Victoria’ was finally born!

“Of course my parents have been amazing in this journey and my partner always said I had it in me to succeed so winning the Award and seeing the business thrive already is real vindication of their belief in me – and makes me very proud!” she added.

As a result of taking the title, Victoria recently spent two days in London at a pair of the city’s most exciting eateries, Elystan Street and The Clove Club, in a prize provided by category sponsor Booker Wholesale, the UK’s leading food & drink wholesaler.

Elystan Street, led by the former owner of The Square, Phil Howard, opened in 2016 and made its impressive debut at number 8 on the Restaurant Magazine UK’s Top 50 list shortly after Phil’s personal success in receiving the magazine’s highly-coveted ‘Chefs’ Chef of the Year’ title, while The Clove Club, which is Britain’s top-ranked venue in the World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards (coming in at number 26), is headed by chef-owner Isaac McHale.

Not only did Victoria spend time honing her skills in their kitchens, she also had chance to chat to Phil and Isaac, who both shared very similar words of wisdom, as Victoria revealed: “The best pieces of advice they gave me were to work hard, to not let others stand in the way of what I want to achieve and that good, honest food is the way to go!” she said.

“Well so far I’ve had 100% positive feedback from all my clients, with many of them becoming repeat customers, and now my long term ambition is to employ a team of chefs to help offer the best catering services I possibly can.

“While I know that that might take a little while yet, I can honestly say that the Awards has given me the boost I needed, so if you are thinking of entering the competition, what’s stopping you?!” she enthused.

With the tenth year of the competition now underway, Awards Director Rachel Mallows MBE DL is also encouraging others to consider getting involved; “We are thrilled that Victoria enjoyed her time at those two prestigious venues and that her victory has played such an important role in her finally realising her dream” explained Rachel.

“Due to the increase in publicity which success in the competition can bring, we would heartily recommended that the county’s chefs make sure they get their entry form in before the deadline next month!” she added.

In addition to the ‘Booker Young Chef of the Year’, the ‘Chef of the Year’ category (sponsored by Dawn Farms and aimed at chefs aged 25 and above) is offering the winner the chance to spend the day with John Williams MBE, Executive Chef at The Ritz. The closing date for both categories is 18th June.

For more details, including to download the entry forms for those and all the categories in the Carlsberg UK Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards 2018/19, please visit the Awards’ website – to recommend your favourite pub or restaurant, or to put forward a nomination in the ‘Healthy Eating Workplace’, ‘Independent Café /Tea Room’ or ‘Weetabix Local Food Hero’ categories, please contact Rachel Mallows on 01933 664437 or email r[email protected]wscompany.comFinally, for further information on the private catering options offered by ‘Homemade By Victoria’, please call 07943 060262 or email [email protected]