Great North Menu winners and judges (L to R) Michael Knox, sous chef and judge, winners Chris Donaldson, Hilton Newcastle Gateshead and Michael Parkinson, Ramside Hall with judges Terry Laybourne and Roger Crosby

Two talented chefs from hotels in Newcastle and County Durham have been crowned the winners of the Great North Menu Challenge 2019.

The competition, now in its seventh year, aims to find the region’s best up and coming chefs and is organised by the North East Hotels Association in partnership the Chefs’ Academy at Newcastle College.

Chris Donaldson, 33, from Hilton Newcastle Gateshead and Michael Parkinson, 23, representing Ramside Hall in County Durham, competed against rising culinary stars from eight other hotels in the region to be crowned joint winners of this year’s competition.

Their victorious dishes will be served to more than 400 industry leaders and high-profile guests at the annual North East Hotels Association Excellence Awards in May.


Mr Donaldson, a chef de partie with more than 19 years’ experience, wowed the judges to win both the main course and dessert categories. For the main, he served up a thyme-infused chicken dish accompanied by sweetcorn, textures of carrot, celeriac, parsnip and a chicken jus. This was followed by a white chocolate panna cotta with zesty raspberries, lemon shortbread and a raspberry profiterole.

Mr Parkinson, also a chef de partie, has been working in kitchens since the age of 14. He captivated the judges with a salt baked heritage beetroot and cerney goat curd starter with candied walnuts, watercress and truffle honey.

The judging panel was led by celebrated North East chef and restaurateur Terry Laybourne, alongside competition sponsor Roger Crosby, general manager at specialist catering equipment supplier Crosby’s in Newcastle and Mal Farmer, programme leader for hospitality at Newcastle College Chefs’ Academy.

Terry Laybourne, head judge, said: “We saw lots of creativity, originality and personalisation throughout the competition. It was also good to see several entrants paid close attention to the brief, which isn’t easy. Each dish has to look good, taste fantastic and take into consideration the fact they will be served to hundreds of guests in a banqueting format, therefore practicality in the design and execution was essential.”

The annual Great North Menu Challenge is organised by the North East Hotels Association, which is the membership body representing hoteliers across the region.

Tommy Mark, General Manager at the Lord Crewe Arms in Blanchland and coordinator of this year’s Great North Menu Challenge on behalf of the North East Hotels Association, added: “The Great North Menu competition is a great way to showcase the culinary talent we have in the region. It was an exciting and tough contest and I’d like to congratulate everyone who took part, especially our winners, who now represent some of the best chef talent working in the North East today.”

The North East Hotels Association was established in 1992 to represent and promote the region’s hotel and hospitality industry around the UK. It is now believed to be the biggest of its kind in England, representing some of the region’s best-known hotels including internationally and nationally recognised chains and leading independent hotels.

The Association launched the Excellence Awards in 2011 to recognise and celebrate the brightest and best hospitality service providers in the North East of England. The awards are now an annual highlight for hotels across the region.

The award categories include: Warmest Welcome, Support Services, Service Excellence, Cleanliness Excellence, Health and Wellness Excellence, Sales Excellence, Community Award, Rising Star, Inspirational Leader and Best Newcomer.