Scaffolder leaps to chef stardom
IT has taken him a while -- but now Billy Garvey is really cooking.
The 36-year-old Galwayman has walked away with the Knorr Student Chef of the Year award.
The mature Galway-Mayo IT student beat off stiff competition from seven other finalists from third-level colleges across the country to capture the prestigious title and win an all-expenses-paid trip to the world's most famous Michelin-starred restaurant in Germany.
But he might never have donned his apron if the building boom had not collapsed. He spent almost 12 years working as a scaffolder on skyscrapers in Australia and more recently back home in Ireland.
It was only when the work dried up that he returned to his first love -- cooking.
"I had gone over to my uncle's restaurant in the Lake District in the UK when I was just 17 and spent a couple of years learning the ropes there. But I headed off to Australia and learned how to scaffold. I enjoyed working on all kinds of skyscrapers," he said.
"I came back home when things were good, but couldn't get work when things dried up and managed to get on this course. It has been great but I never expected this to happen."
Now single, he used do all the cooking when he was in a relationship. "My girlfriend at the time couldn't even boil water," he said.
Competition judge, Stefan Matz, head chef at the five-star Ashford Castle in Mayo and the g Hotel in Galway, said he believed that in Billy, they had found the next Irish star chef.
Billy captured the title by reinventing and revamping traditional Irish food with his presentation of griddled bread from the fire, baked egg from the ashes and a main course of pan-friend scallops with black pudding, colcannon apple jelly and apple froth.
He won an all-expenses paid trip to the Baden Wurttemberg region -- culinary capital of Germany -- where he will be feted at the renowned Schlosshotel Friederichsruehe restaurant.