A second year culinary arts student studying at Athlone Institute of Technology was crowned the winner of the prestigious Knorr Professional Student Chef of the Year competition held in Dublin last week.

Maria Dunne, who works as a commis chef at Kilkea Castle, impressed the competition judges with her use of fresh, local ingredients to produce a starter and main course that fit this year’s theme: ‘2020: The Future of Foods’.

Using ingredients from the Knorr Professional Future 50 Foods Report, as well as food items that she foraged herself from An Ghrian Glas Farm in Co Westmeath, Maria created two dishes inspired by driving positive environmental change.

Maria cooked up a storm in the kitchen, kicking things off with her own unique take on garlic mushrooms with a garlic purée and foraged greens for starters.

She followed this up with a ling and spelt dish which comprised of confit ling, Dunany organic spelt, cauliflower purée, lemon foam, wakame and An Ghrian Glas Farm greens.

“It’s such an honour to receive this award. This competition gives chefs of the future a platform to make a name for themselves before heading out to the workforce,” Maria, who was highly commended for her display of creativity and sustainability in the kitchen, said, adding: “I want to thank everyone for the opportunity, especially my lecturers.”

Congratulating Maria on her accomplishment, Dr Anthony Johnston, the head of Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure at AIT, said: “Maria is an outstanding student and has represented us at Food on the Edge in Galway, received the Dean’s award for high academic achievement in a non-award year, and is working in Kilkea Castle. To top all that off, in the summer she is going to Russia representing Ireland in a ploughing competition. We’re all extremely proud.”

Athlone Institute of Technology is a contemporary third level institute distinguished by academic excellence in teaching, learning and research. The institute was awarded The Sunday Times ‘Institute of Technology of the Year 2020, 2018 and Runner-Up in 2017. The institute also tops Ireland’s official league table for research and was listed in U-Multirank’s ‘Top 25 Performing Universities in the World for Interdisciplinary Research’ in 2018 and 2019. Athlone Institute of Technology is currently ranked number one nationally for student satisfaction - a position it has maintained for six consecutive years. For more information relating to the institute’s CAO programmes, visit www.ait.ie. #ChooseAIT

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