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Niall McKenna awarded national achievement accolade

James Street South owner Niall McKenna, pictured with Belfast Metropolitan College “Future Star” Connor Bradley at the Association of Colleges Awards in London

James Street South owner Niall McKenna, pictured with Belfast Metropolitan College “Future Star” Connor Bradley at the Association of Colleges Awards in London

James Street South owner Niall McKenna, pictured with Belfast Metropolitan College “Future Star” Connor Bradley at the Association of Colleges Awards in London

Former Belfast Metropolitan College student Niall receives an Association of Colleges Gold Award

James Street South owner and chef Niall McKenna is celebrating after being awarded a prestigious Association of Colleges (AoC) Gold Award at the House of Commons.

The gong celebrates the success of further education alumni, acknowledging the vital role that colleges play in building the foundation of successful careers.

Niall, who’s James Street South Group consists of The Bar + Grill, Hadskis, Cast and Crew, James Street South and The Cookery School, was nominated by the college where he studied professional cookery in 1987-88. After leaving, he learned his trade in some of the UK’s most acclaimed restaurants, studying under Michelin starred chefs Nico Ladenis and Gary Rhodes.

Niall returned to Belfast in 2003 to open his own restaurant, James Street South, and keeps in regular touch with the college, working alongside tutors on the James Street South Apprentice Scheme, which offers a prestigious placement to students with training in each of the Group’s four restaurants.

On accepting the award from Baroness Sharp of Guildford at the ceremony in the House of Commons, Niall said: “My time at Belfast Met was the bedrock for my career in Northern Ireland’s hospitality industry, and over the years many of the most gifted chefs we’ve had in our kitchens have followed the same vocational path.”

“Courses like these are crucial in creating the next generation of hospitality excellence here, and at James Street South we work closely with Belfast Met in training applicants for our Apprentice Scheme, now in its third year.”

“The training our interns undertake in the classroom creates a solid grounding for their experience in our kitchens, and provides an unrivalled start to their culinary careers.”

The Gold award comes just weeks after Niall and Joanne McKenna were honoured at the Belfast Telegraph Awards for their contribution to hospitality and tourism here, and follows James Street South Head Chef David Gillmore being named Best chef in Ulster at the Irish Restaurant Awards, widely acknowledged as the Irish hospitality industry Oscars.

Belfast Metropolitan College also nominated Connor Bradley, 23, as a student showing promise in a similar field, to become one of the Association of Colleges’ ‘Future Stars’. Connor, who is studying a City & Guilds NVQ level 3 Professional Chef programme, was one of three Future Stars to win a £1,000 grant. Speaking at the ceremony, he said: “My main career aspiration is to learn and accomplish as much as I can in this industry.  My final goal is to own and run a restaurant that I can be proud to put my name to, much like our winner Niall McKenna.  After eating in his restaurants it is obvious how great a standard of work is put into every minute of running any of this numerous establishments.”

For more information about AoC Gold Awards, visit www.aoc.co.uk/gold

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